2.9. ...Goes Unpunished
The men gather around Lark.
“I think she’s dead,” Dominic repeats himself. His voice is trembling.
Nikolas feels like time is frozen. This can’t be real.
“She’s not dead,” Karl sniffs at the air, “she’s mostly dead, though.”
Upon closer inspection, she does seem to be breathing shallowly, and Dominic is able to locate a faint pulse. But considering the gravity of the situation, no one appreciates Karl’s reference.
“We need to heal her,” Karl says firmly as if he’s reached a previously unthought of conclusion.
“A vampire could heal her,” Bastian remarks, “or their blood could. Though she stands a chance of being turned herself.”
“Then I’ll find them,” Karl growls, “and rip their fucking heads off. Bring their blood back for you.”
“Could you summon your pack?” Bastian asks.
“No pack,” Karl deflates, “just me.”
“Then you’d just get yourself killed,” Bastian snorts, “but by all means, don’t let me stop you.”
“We need to take her to the hospital,” Nikolas interjects with the most obvious solution.
“If she’s as close to death as the wolf says, we might not make it in time,” Bastian’s brow knits with concern. He looks at his son, who’s still examining Lark.
“I might know a spell,” Dominic nods, “but I’ll need your help.”
“A spell?” Nikolas shakes his head, “no, we need to go--”
“Help me move her to someplace with more room,” Dominic orders Karl. Karl obeys, scooping Lark up and carrying her to the living room. He gently lays her on the floor.
“What do I need to do?” Bastian asks.
Dom looks embarrassed, “I’m going to borrow some of your power.”
Bastian rolls his eyes, “oh good, I’ve always wanted to be a battery.”
Dominic kneels next to Lark. He holds his hands over her torso and they begin to glow. Tendrils of light extend from his hands, connecting to Lark’s chest. Nikolas watches in amazement. He knows he should advocate for taking Lark to the hospital, for proven, scientific modern medicine. But for some reason, he believes this will work.
That can’t be right. He doesn’t believe in anything.
“What’s he doing?” Nikolas asks Karl.
Karl shrugs. “Magic, I guess,” he says, “Don’t know anything about mages.”
“I’m manipulating the production of blood cells,” Dominic says softly, not taking his eyes off of Lark, “essentially I’m significantly increasing the probability that her marrow will create new cells, and the speed at which it happens.”
“Probability,” Karl perks up, “it’s like Scarlet Witch’s powers.”
Dominic glances up at him, “yes, I suppose. Before the movies messed them up.”
Karl scowls. “Those fucking movies,” he spits.
“So magic is real,” Nikolas interjects. It’s less of a question and more of a statement meant to convince himself, as if the visible evidence isn’t enough.
“Duh,” Bastian rolls his eyes again, “you mundanes are so fucking dense sometimes.”
Nikolas ignores him. “So you’re like a healer or something?” If he’s learned anything from the video games he plays, this guy is the healer and the old man is DPS. That means Karl must be the tank.
“No,” Dominic shakes his head, “healing is very difficult, actually. You have to have the right spell for the right injury. Otherwise you could make things worse.”
“What do you mean? Wait, how did you know to come here?” Nikolas furrows his brows. The questions he should be asking are finally coming to mind.
Lark coughs, and all eyes turn to her. Her breathing is a little more rapid, pronounced, though she’s still unconscious.
“Did it work?” Nikolas asks.
Lark shoots up with a scream, panic in her eyes. And then her face softens. She looks around the room dreamily.
Dominic smiles widely. “Yes,” he answers, “it worked.”
Lark squints at Dominic, “what worked?”
But before anyone can answer, Bjorn cries out. His voice is strained, sudden, a heartbreaking cry that to experienced parents signals hunger. Lark reflexively tries to stand up so she can comfort her son, but her legs shake and she falls back onto her butt. “Oww,” she mutters.
“Let me help,” Bastian stands up, “the formula?” Even to Bastian, who was something of an absent father, Bjorn’s cries are heartbreaking.
“There’s a bottle in the fridge,” Nikolas says, not taking his eyes off of Lark, “how are you feeling?”
“My neck burns,” she says sleepily. It takes a moment for her to come to, but--incredibly, unnaturally--she’s up and moving within minutes. It’s as if she had never been within an inch of death.
With Lark out of danger, Nikolas’ question returns: “How’d you know to come here? It seems like you were prepared for this.”
Lark tilts her head as she looks at Dominic. “Yeah, how’d you know?”
Dominic’s face grows hot. “It’s a long story,” he says uncertainly. So the four sims make themselves comfortable: Dominic pulls up a chair, Lark perches on Nikolas’ lap, and Karl sits next to them. He refuses to shift back to his human form, stating that he can sense more as a wolf and will thus be able to protect them should the vampires launch a second assault.
The quartet sits in uncomfortable silence before Nikolas speaks: “so?”
“Should I wait for my father?” Dominic says, a transparent attempt to buy more time.
Lark shakes her head, “it can take awhile. Bjorn is a slow eater, and he’ll have to be rocked back to sleep.”
Dominic takes a deep breath. He tells his story, leaving at a key detail: when he gets to the glamour spell, he doesn’t state who he turned into, just that he disguised himself.
“So you can change into anyone?” Nikolas interrupts. He would give just about anything to be able to change into someone else--it would, after all, make heists a lot less dangerous. Hell, he could steal from the Louvre disguised as Charlie Chaplin if he had those kind of powers.
“Um, not quite. It has to be someone whose features I’m familiar with, and it's easier if I’ve met them.” Though that’s conjecture on his part--he’s only used the spell twice, completely changing his appearance once. That left a bad enough taste in his mouth he hasn’t tried it again.
“Oh,” Nikolas sounds disappointed.
Dominic continues his story, narrating his break in into Gaius’ residence, his brief exploration, his encounter with the witch (whose sudden appearance makes Lark gasp), and then his showdown with Gaius.
“Wait,” Nikolas interrupts again, “if vampires have to stop and count whatever shit is on the floor in front of them, why not just carry a ton of pebbles with you all the time? It’d be like vampire pepper spray.”
Dominic looks surprised at the question. “I noticed the female--Bianca?--didn’t seem beholden by the same compulsion, so I looked it up and some researchers hypothesize arithmomania only affects older vampires.”
“Sounds like a cop-out,” Nikolas scoffs.
“I’m missing something,” Lark pipes up, “you explained how you got the wands back, but why did Gaius think Nikolas had them? And how’d you know to come here?”
Dominic is quiet. Lark--perhaps due to her naiveté--doesn’t suspect him, and Nikolas is still trying to wrap his mind around the mere idea of magic. So Karl is the one who realizes what happened.
“You made yourself look like Nikolas,” his nostrils twitch.
Dominic looks down at his hands. “Yes. I did,” there’s a silence and Dominic feels compelled to fill it, “And I’m so deeply sorry for that. I really--I wasn’t thinking, I guess.”
Lark looks crestfallen, “but why?” Why him?”
“I don’t know,” Dominic can’t stand to even look her in the eyes, so he keeps his gaze fixed on his hands, “I guess I though Gaius would assume that someone else hired Nikolas, and that person would become his target,” he lies. It's a clumsy explanation. He looks up at Lark just in time to see the realization hit her: he had carelessly endangered her in pursuit of petty revenge.
This is what Dominic was expecting: disappointment, maybe some anger, and then the end of his friendship with Lark, the only relationship he has with someone who is halfway normal. But it’s what he deserves. No, he deserves worse.
And worse comes: Karl launches himself at the mage, pinning him to the ground. This is apparently the wolf’s signature move.
“Dangerous,” he snarls as he wraps his claws around Dominic’s neck, “you almost killed her.”
“I didn’t,” the words gurgle out of Dominic’s mouth, “mean to.”
Lark leaps up, her eyes wide. “You have to help,” she tells Nikolas.
“Why,” he scratches his head, “Karl’s right. He almost got you killed.” He feels foolish that he took so long to realize what Dominic had done--it made perfect sense in retrospect. If only he had figured it out sooner, he could be the one beating the snot out of him rather than Karl.
“And Karl will kill him!”
Nikolas sighs and steps forward, putting his hands on Karl’s shoulders. “Hey, let him go,” his voice is unconvincing.
Karl ignores him, so Nikolas adopts a more serious tone. “I said let go,” he commands as he pulls on Karl’s shoulder, trying the pry the wolf off of Dominic. Karl snarls and tightens his grip on Dominic’s throat. Dominic claws at Karl’s wrist, trying fruitlessly to free himself.
Making comparisons between domesticated dogs and werewolves is lazy, a cheap narrative trick used only by hacky writers in order to, say, develop a secondary character’s personality with minimal effort. But much like fighting dogs, it’s unwise to get between a fighting werewolf and his foe.
Nikolas discovers this the hard way: when he pulls on Karl’s shoulder again, Karl snaps around, grabs his forearm, and sinks his teeth in. The wound immediately begins to burn, and Nikolas--to his embarrassment--screams.
“Shit,” Karl’s eyes grow wide when he realizes, “oh, fuck Oh fuck, man, I am sorry.”
Nikolas falls backward, looking at his arm in shock. The bite broke the skin, but it’s hardly bleeding. You bit me,” he says in disbelief.
“Sorry,” Karl repeats himself, “sorry.”
Dominic pushes Karl out of the way and examines Nikolas’ arm. “It isn’t bleeding much, which is good,” he turns to Karl, “Maybe. A coagulant?”
Karl blinks, “don’t know.”
“Lycanthropy is a virus of sorts, right? It can spread?”
Karl nods, “I was born this way, but my mom said that’s how she turned.”
“Wait,” Lark says, “turned? You mean…?” She trails off.
Dominic looks grim.
“Can’t you heal it?”
“I might be able to heal the wound, but not the infection. I don’t know a healer who can, really.”
Bastian jogs down the stairs, a look of annoyance on his grizzled face. “I barely got that damn brat down,” he grumbles, “no offense. What the fuck is all the screaming about?”
“Have you seen anything like this before?” Dominic asks.
Nikolas holds out his arm for the old mage to examine.
Bastian narrows his eyes, “the wolf bit you?”
“I have seen this before,” Bastian sighs, “on one of my cousins. When we picked a fight with the wrong man.”
Bastian levels his eyes at Nikolas, “you’re going to turn.”
“Turn?” Nikolas shakes his head, “I don’t understand.”
“Into a werewolf,” Dominic says softly, pausing before he continues, “I’m so sorry.”
“Just like that?” Lark’s voice is strangled, “like, just one bite and he’s gonna turn into--into that.” She gestures to Karl. Karl looks furious for a second, and then his face falls.
“I didn’t mean to,” he mutters, “and it’s not that bad. You’ll see, Nikolas. It’s not that bad.”
Nikolas looks down at his wound. Tiny droplets of blood well up from the bite, dripping slowly down his arm. “Leave,” he says.
There’s no protest from Karl and the mages. The three men depart, Dominic again offering his apologies to Lark as he leaves.
Lark sits down next to Nikolas, who hasn’t moved.
“Do you want to talk?” Lark asks.
Nikolas shakes his head.
In dire moments, strange things tend to pass through one’s mind. Such is the case for Nikolas, who is suddenly reminded of a warning his father once offered him.
No good deed goes unpunished.
The vampires might not show up for awhile--I mean, they’re not even in this chapter but I wanted to address it since I decided to omit an A/N on the previous chapter. Since vampires are functionally immortal AND Gaius now realizes that Nikolas didn’t steal from him, he wants to reformulate his plan which includes some amount of patience and waiting. He *could* show up again sometime, but we’ll see. For now I’m keeping him on the backburner.