Monday, 17 October 2016

Chapter Sixteen

As the sounds of chaos and some sort of pitched battle against god knows what raged around them, Faulkner and Alice found themselves squeezed into what really was a very snug priest hole, the lady the doctor had loved and lost perched somewhat intimately on his knee. Faulkner was far too aware of her proximity, her warmth, the fragility of her in his arms. He was also too aware of that earlier kiss, of the fact that  he wanted to kiss her again and really shouldn't, that somewhere out there the world seemed to be ending even as he was safe here, pretending it wasn't.

"It is warm in here," Alice's murmur somewhat mirrored his own thoughts, her head moving just enough to be resting against his shoulder.

"It's summer," was his reply, "Even with snow."

"Even with snow..." her agreement was accompanied by the brush of her lips against his neck, though it could not, he was sure, have been intentional. It would be so easy to capture those lips for a kiss yet he mustn't, Faulkner knew, even as his eyelids closed for a moment. When his eyes opened again it was to find her watching him closely, gaze soft, those lips ever so slightly parted.

"You should be in bed," even as he said it, he heard it; to anyone else it was a concerned doctor... Said to Alice Brandenburg it sounded like clumsy seduction. 

"I'd rather," her gaze never faltered, "Be with you."

"On that score, I can oblige." At his words Alice gave a smile and let her head rest on Faulkner's shoulder, the brush of her hair  soft and careful as she cuddled closer. This was not his life, he knew, yet when her lips found his for another kiss, he realised that it could be.  The nightgown that Alice wore, sensible and respectable, seemed suddenly very thin, Faulkner's free hand resting a little awkwardly on Alice's hip, feeling the warmth of her skin beneath. His own suit, black and starched and formal, was too warm in this confined space, though he knew that the source of that heat was rather more to do with the woman on his lap than the outfit he wore. 

"I've never sat on anyone's lap in a priest hole before," the whispered words against his lips sent a thrill through him. 

"I'm sure the priest wouldn't object..." He was surprised at his own words, recognising not the doctor, but perhaps a little of the other persona, the one he had sought to set aside. "And if he does, I'll deal with it."

"The priest," she pointed out, voice low, "Isn't here."

Faulkner nodded, just time to steal another kiss before the silence in the room beyond was broken by the flapping of leathery wings. It ceased in a moment, followed by a scraping, scratching that made his skin crawl. The creature, the doctor realised, was seeking them out, whatever fingernails it possessed tracing the panels, the walls, looking for a way in. Alice's fear was palpable, even her breath stilled as they listened and waited, helpless to do anything else as the creature continued in its quest to reach them. 

If Faulkner could speak, could even whisper without fear of discovery he would tell her that nothing would harm her, that he would lay down his own life for her, that no harm would come to her tonight. Instead though he held Alice closer than ever, hearing the snuffle, the scraping drawing closer, pausing on the other side of the concealed doorway through which they had bundled themselves. The movement paused, mere inches of panelling between Alice and Faulkner and the thing outside, the doctor staring into the murk at the wall, listening to the nails seek and investigate, test and taste, the air filling with the scent of sulphur. It seemed to go on forever and then, with the sound of wings beating once more, the darkness somehow lightened a little and the stench cleared, leaving them alone in their place of sanctuary.

He felt the breath she let out, eyes wide as she whispered, "God, Robert...."

"That was close even for me..."

"What if they come back?"

"They won't," the Scot was sure of that, knowing that the creature would not have left if it believed its quarry to be within its grasp. 

"I am afraid," the admission, he could tell, was not made lightly, the trust she put in him with those simple words touching him deeply despite the peril of their situation.

"No harm will come to you," Faulkner took Alice's face gently in his hands, meeting her gaze with his own, "On my life, I swear you are safe."

"I should not have let you go," she whispered, "And I will not let you go again."

"We're together now," was his gentle reply, "And now is all that matters."

"We need to get out of here," he saw the realisation cross her face, "Don't we?"

"I think it might be the safest place in the house..." The doctor admitted, adding, "They don't know we're here."

"What are they?"

Faulkner couldn't let himself think about that, couldn't let his head become anymore clouded than it was tonight. All of this could be faced when the world was sane, when creatures from a nightmare weren't scraping at the walls. 

"We'll think about that tomorrow," he let his forehead rest against hers, needing the steadiness, the sanity of another's touch. "And who they are looking for."

"Who?" he felt her tense then.

"The heir to the throne... the missing Prussian prince..." Faulkner mused aloud​, silently adding the list of various European somebodies to that list​. 

“Then we should be safe!”

"As long as we're hidden," he decided, "We are."

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