Fic: Do You Dream, Daddy?
Part 13/?
Rating: R


Steam billowed thickly around Tom as he let the rush of hot water cascade over his body. He closed his eyes and dipped his face beneath the shower head. Droplets bombarded his skin and he felt each and every one, distinguishing the placement and seemingly infinite patterns they took to find the drain. He felt the hairs along his arms rise and the feverish rush of blood as his pulse quickened. It was a warning that Hyde was nearer, one the tormented sputtering of the bathroom lights confirmed. Tom tried to push the intruding thoughts from his mind, holding back the flood of foreign consciousness with memories of Claire. Faint sensual shivers still ran the paths Claire's fingers had blazed along his body, setting him hard at the mere reflection of her touch. He couldn't help the contented smile she inspired in him.

Using Claire to keep me away is like dipping yourself in chocolate for camouflage. Pity for you I have a raging sweet tooth… teeth, if I'm honest. I can't play favorites.”

Tom could see the warped silhouette of Hyde coalesce just beyond the semi-transparent curtain.

Or is present company inspiring the manly salute? Filthy Daddy, I don't know if I should be flattered or disgusted."

With every subsequent intrusion, it was impressive how quickly Hyde managed to get under Tom's skin. Then again, that was to be expected considering their perverse symbiosis. So Tom did his best to avoid reacting to his bothersome pest. He shut off the tap and saw Hyde closing in, his protracted features shadowing the opalescent film separating them.

Giving up on the shower, eh? Bet no amount of scrubbing can clean those naughty thoughts from your crippled psyche.”

Tom let out a disgruntled sigh. “And here I was having such a good day.”

Says the man with the shit eatin' grin. You'd never guess we were one foot in the grave." Hyde crossed his arms before him in a strangely disciplinary stance.

"You've decided to believe me, then? That's the first wise thing I think you've done." Tom whipped the sodden shower curtain back to reveal the stern glower of Hyde, staring him down as he reached for a towel.

"Keeping secrets, Doctor Daddy? Or a twisted joke, perhaps? But you'd have to have a sense of humor then and we both know I got the lions share in that department.”

Tom began to dry himself. “I'm sure I don't want to know what you're on about.”

Why haven't you told Claire, for the pity sex at least?” Without a hint of motion, Hyde seemed to instantly shift aside as Tom stepped out of the tub and continued to dry off.

“I was hoping solutions would present themselves and I wouldn't have to.” He made it a point to preface the next statement with a confident smirk. “And I don't need pity for that.”

Hyde grinned with transparent pomposity. “My, haven't we come over all cocky suddenly. I'm a bad influence on you.”

“That's all Claire's doing,” he clarified with a stern look.

Bet it is.” Hyde sneered. “You're welcome.”

Curiosity had been eating away at Tom and he considered carefully before finally deciding to ask in as vague and indifferent a wording as possible, “Should I bother asking why?”

I think you just did. You're not as clever as you think I am.” Hyde's grin amplified until almost a caricature of himself. “Again with the questions and the endless penetration of scientific curiosity. They say curiosity killed the cat, you know?”

“Evading?”

Hyde rolled his eyes. “With all your girly sobbing I needed some bloody peace before I slaughtered the lot of you.”

Tom swallowed down what little pride he'd restored for himself and responded with a strained and barely spoken "Thanks."

Hyde was visibly confused by Tom's gratitude, brushing it off with an uneasy glance away. "Don't be thanking me. It was Claire's doing."

“Bet it is.” Tom smiled knowingly.

As if on cue, Claire called from beyond the bathroom doors, “So what's the brilliant master plan, then?” Just like that, the spell was broken as Hyde seemed to evaporate within the vapor of steam lingering still in the bathroom. Tom's attention turned to Claire's impatient pacing in the bedroom.

“Was I supposed to have a plan?” Tom slipped into the boxers and slacks, surprised and more than a little discomfited to find they were tailored exactly to his measurements. “I suppose we should stay calm and see what they have to offer.” He threw on the white shirt and buttoned it up quickly as he stepped out of the bathroom. Claire crossed the room to him, her spaghetti string burgundy dress hugging her sleek frame like a second skin. She was a vision, sophisticated, dangerous and beautiful beyond the telling of it.

“And how is our silent partner?” She asked in a good-humored tone as she tended to his belligerent collar.

Tom cracked a grin. “I'd have to say bored and hungry.”

“That goes for the three of us.” Claire smiled. A quick rapping drew their attentions to the door. “I'm guessing that would be the dinner bell.” She watched Tom cross the room as he draped a black tie around his neck. He wrestled with it for a moment before she stepped up to remedy the situation. "What was all that about staying calm?" With a few practiced weaves, she crafted a nearly perfect knot and straightened the tie with a stiff yank. He thanked her with a kiss, forcing himself to retreat when another series of knocks sounded at the door.

"The jacket..." he gestured nervously toward the bed and as the dutiful wife, Claire was instantly on it. Meanwhile, Tom keyed in the security code and listened for the release ping. He pulled back the door to find Collins awaiting him with a gracious smile.

“Good evening and welcome back Doctor Jackman. I trust you've found everything satisfactory thus far?”

“Yes, thank you... Collins, was it?”

"Yes sir." He nodded and paused briefly, as if struck by the recollection of his name. Claire came alongside Tom and propped up the jacket ready for him. “Don't you look quite the pair?"

Claire accepted the compliment with a warm smile as she helped Tom work into the black dinner jacket. Collin's bowed politely before stepping forward to assume her role, allowing Claire a chance to gather up her black velvet wrap as he helped Tom straighten his lapels.

"Mistress Utterson is waiting for you in the formal dining room. A bit pretentious if you ask me, but let's give the old hag a real entrance. What do you say?" Collins flashed a devious grin as he stepped back to admire his handiwork. "Exquisite. Shall I escort you down, then?”

Tom nodded and decided to test the waters of his gentleman's familiarity. "Hyde's taken a liking to you."

"Allow me to kindly thank you both then, sirs."

Tom snickered. "Pardon me for saying but you're much too comfortable with all this for a civilian."

"Yes well, many generations of my family have been charged with serving yours. If I may be so bold, it's an honor and a privilege to be in your presence, sir, as well as Master Hyde's."

Tom chuckled. "I can see why he likes you."

"You two want a room?" Claire joked and gave Tom's arm a squeeze.

"Don't tempt me, madam," Collins mumbled under his breath and with the subtlest hint of a blush along his cheeks, added, "Come along, if you will." Claire giggled and followed after the young man.

“You do look beautiful,” Tom said softly as he tucked her hand in close to his side.

“And you look dashing as ever.” They kissed sweetly and took their time catching up to Collins. They exchanged glances as they went, each reading the other for silent cues. There was no sign of the imposing security team from before, easing tensions as they made their way downstairs.

Once they reached the ground floor, Collins led them across the foyer to a pair of elaborately embellished wooden doors. “Here we are.” He pulled them back and bowed courteously as an initiation to continue inside.

An impressive dining room stood before them and as with much of the manor, the period décor appeared steeped in history. What looked to be hand painted wallpaper adorn wood framed walls distributed generously with artwork. A stained glass window with a kaleidoscope of colored facets was across from them, the dim light of the moon shimmering beyond. At the center of the spacious room stood a large rectangular wooden table, easily capable of seating a dozen or so comfortably. A single chair was posted at one end with two more on either side at the opposite end. It was obvious this was to be private dining. A crystalline chandelier sparkled above, complimented by the warm light of the numerous pillar and taper candles burning as centerpieces along the dark cherry wood table.

“Mind the unsociable gentlemen at the back,” Collins said quietly as Tom and Claire entered. A plump-faced and youthful servant girl greeted the Jackman's with a smile. Collins shut the double doors behind them and Tom noted the slight metallic cling of a lock being set. He certainly wasn't given the passcode for this room.

Another attendant, an older, stern browed man, stood stiffly in the shadows at the far corner of the room. Tom noted the man's sharp gaze follow him as he escorted Claire to her seat. He recognized he was quite out of his element in such a setting and was understandably nervous but the sudden appearance of Utterson, seemingly out of nowhere, immediately set him uneasy. She took a seat and settled back in her chair until her features were obscured by the busy table top landscape of place settings, silver cutlery, candles and stemware.

“Welcome home Doctor and Mrs. Jackman.” Utterson acknowledged them in a grating tone and leaned forward, coming into view through the forest of candles. She wore a sliver of a smile, pinching her cigarette between her stained teeth as she continued on, “Glad you could join us for dinner.”

“Sorry to keep you waiting," Claire said and winked her thanks to Tom as he tucked her chair beneath her. "Always prefer to be fashionably late.”

Utterson feigned amusement as she flicked the ashes of her cigarette to the floor. “It's a pleasant surprise to see you, Mrs. Jackman. Or is it Mrs. Hyde at the moment?”

“Both, actually. Remember that.”

Utterson drew in a deep breath of smoke and let it seep slowly through her teeth. “Such the supportive wife, my boy's are lucky to have you.”

“They aren't your boys. You haven't earned the right to say that.”

A server came through a heavy swaying door at the back of the room, a glimpse of shifting shadows over stainless steel hinted at a full kitchen staff. The young man nervously poured a glass of white wine, setting it beside Utterson before continuing on down to the guests at the other end of the table. Tom took his seat, watching as the server poured wine into the glass situated near Claire and greeted her notice with a polite smile. The stretch of his arm caused the fabric of his jacket to crease oddly around his waist, revealing the unmistakable shape of a gun. The server's attentions shifted to Tom and he barely kept from staring as he made his way around the table. Obviously Hyde's reputation had preceded him and for once, Tom welcomed the intimidation it spawned. Once the final glass was poured, the masquerading security officer retreated to a dark corner awaiting the next course of service.

Tom lifted the glass and as if by instinct, took an evaluating sniff. An infinite catalogue of sensory perceptions sparked to life, igniting within his feverish mind, evaluating the bouquet, the bite of the aged grape and the fragrance of spice it held, searching for something, anything that didn't belong. He chanced a sip and when certain, signaled Claire with a nod that he'd determined it was safe for consumption. She sipped sparingly, letting him know with an annoyed glance she was less than pleased he'd taken such a risk.

Utterson swallowed down her wine and held out the glass in a silent order for more. The young servert hesitated a moment before responding to the request. “Let's get down to business, shall we?”

“Is that what this is, business?” Tom asked tersely.

“Much as it pains me, more often than not that's what it comes to. Lucky for you the Institute's bottom line rides on the future of you and your family.”

“Your compassion is so very reassuring.”

“I understand your antagonism but such defiance will not help get the answers you seek.”

“The only answer I want right now is what you want from me?”

“Cooperation.”

“You'll not get it. I don't trust you or your fabricated files.” Tom took a deeper drink, hoping the wine would settle his anxious stomach.

“Nicely played but I assure you the data you've seen, that we've provided you I might add, is genuine. And there's more, much more to be had that's just as alarming.”

“Data is subject to perception and all too prone to corruption. Results can be spun towards whatever ends you wish.”

“Since much of it is based on your research, we trust it to be valid enough. Regardless, you know we have the facilities and the minds to help your unique situation. If you cooperate, the Institutes' full support is at your disposal.”

Claire's expression lifted ever so slightly with hope while Tom's gaze narrowed with suspicion. “And what do you want in return?”

The two young attendants exchanged nervous glances as they began to serve up soup. The aroma of rich beef stock did little to calm Tom's already troubled stomach. As hungry as he was, the thought of dining freely with such a viper seemed unwise at best. He noticed Claire eyeing the bread and took comfort in the fact he wasn't alone in his distraction.

Utterson discarded her spent cigarette to the floor and sipped from her glass of wine, as if to deepen the suspense of making them wait for an answer. The plucky female attendant quickly knelt down, took up the smoldering remnants and hurried away to dispense with it. “Leave us,” Utterson ordered and the two servers exited, leaving only the mysterious attendant in the shadows looking on.

“Klein and Utterson is a respectable Institution, Doctor Jackman. One that's provided the world with life saving...”

“Spare us the campaign speech,” Claire said.

“A good friend and mentor of yours once believed the ends justify the means.”

“And look what ends such beliefs brought on him,” Tom said with harsh admonition.

Utterson fitted another cigarette within her holder and lit it before continuing. “There are those who would like to tarnish the Institute's reputation, those who wish to destroy generations of progress, those who would deny you and your family of their only chance at survival. I intend to prevent such foolish actions by erasing the mistakes of our past... of your past, to be precise.”

“What exactly do you want from us?” Claire demanded.

“I need your troublesome assistant and that private investigator hushed,” she sucked deeply on her cigarette, exhaling a thick cloud of smoke as she added, “in the most permanent sense.”

“Permanent?”Claire echoed.

“Termination, my dear, and not of the pink slip variety.”

“Not on your life,” Tom said without hesitation or surprise.

“Ah, but it's your life we're dealing with here, isn't it, Doctor Jackman?”

“What else do you want from us?”

“There is nothing else if these loose ends are left dangling. Perhaps I didn't make myself clear, this isn't a request. Callender and Reimer are liabilities to you and your family's welfare. Unfortunately they are liabilities you are responsible for. They will be dealt with or you will be left to rot away one cell at a time and quite possibly your boys will follow.”

“What does that mean, rot away?” Claire asked, clearly frustrated.

“He didn't tell you?” Her ruby lips curled back in a twisted smile. “I should have known.”

“Tell me what?” Claire's concerned gaze danced between Tom and Utterson as she awaited an answer.

“Your husband is dying, my dear, and we're your only hope at saving his life.”

Claire went quiet for a long moment, stunned with disbelief. “That's preposterous. He would have told me if…” she paused in seeing Tom's apologetic expression, then thought for a moment before coming to a realization. “Oh my God. That's what Peter said back at the Institute. He said you were dying but that was before. I thought it was over."

"I'm afraid that much has remained unchanged, Mrs. Jackman."

"Tom is this true?”

Tom didn't respond, knowing his silence was all the answer she would need.

“How could you keep this from me? How could you not tell me you are dying?”

“Hyde is as well. They are both suffering from unfortunate genetic complications as a result of the transformations. But it's worsened recently, hasn't it?” Utterson directed the question to Tom, clearly not anticipating a response so he didn't bother with any as she returned her attention to Claire. “It may be reversible if you both choose to work with us, if you cooperate fully. If you refuse, Tom will die and Hyde with him.”

It was clear to Tom that Claire was struggling to come to grips with the news. It's not every day you're blackmailed into murder through threats of your husband's impending death. All in all, she was taking it much better than he'd anticipated.

“You can't seriously think telling me this would justify murder?” Claire countered with impressive indifference.

Utterson ignored the comment and added casually, “I understand if you'd prefer to keep your conscious clear of such distasteful things so feel free to requisition Hyde in fulfilling your end of the agreement.”

“I will not allow Hyde to be reduced to some assassin for hire,” Tom insisted.

“Oh but he's exactly that, you see. Hyde is the perfect killer, preconditioned for it as well as a great many other things.”

“Not anymore,” Claire declared most resolutely.

“Perhaps you should let him make the decision for himself. After all, he has as much to gain or lose in this. Besides, he seems to have taken a liking to such, shall we say dubious sport.”

“This is insanity,” Claire sighed.

“Quite the contrary, it's the only sensible option you've left us. The Jackman's are all but dead to the world. We've both seen to that. What would be the risk for an inexistent man to tidy up a mess created by a dead family?” She savored another puff of smoke, letting it slink off her tongue as she spoke, “Consider this more of an act of good faith, a chance for a fresh relationship or the end of a rather nasty one.”

“We're leaving.” Claire jumped to her feet, setting in motion the human statue previously lurking in the shadows. He stepped forward and bowed his head slightly to speak into whatever hidden communication device was wired under his clothes. Unfortunately Claire hadn't noticed him and started in on a rant directed towards their hostess. “Katherine and Miranda knew this was coming. They warned us. I knew it too and still we had to come, had to hope there was a chance.”

Tom's attentions shifted to the veiled security man as he revealed a large pistol from beneath his jacket. Tom got to his feet in hopes to gain Claire's attention but it was futile, she was much too driven by her own tirade to notice him or the two armed men that slipped in the door behind her.

“We're not some puppets for you to toy around with! You and your Institute can go to Hell!”

Utterson appeared unimpressed as she finished off her wine. “Pity, I thought you'd be more reasonable than this, Mrs. Jackman.”

“You thought wrong!” Claire concluded.

The heated exchange was quickly overshadowed by the stealthy entrance of two more men as the others lifted their rifles, preparing for a confrontation. Tom shook his head in silent protest, cautioning them with a defiant stare to back down or else. He knew well enough it could come to this. But even as it unfolded before his eyes, he remained steadfast in his disbelief. In came the outwardly awkward servants who had also taken up arms to join the growing ranks of militia. And as the numbers grew, so did the primal fever churning in Tom's gut. His pulse escalated, his muscles tensing and readied for action by the panicked need to flee. But the dread soon evolved into something quite different… excitement and inexplicable arousal. His hands clenched to fists at his sides as an acrid scent crossed his nose, one so familiar. It was fear, he could smell fear and it made his mouth water in anticipation. Only then did he notice the chandelier's light sputtering above and the candles flames dancing erratically before him.

Claire directed a stern finger at Utterson as she scolded, “No one blackmails my husband into becoming a murderer.”

“When all you have to do is say pretty please,” Hyde announced himself with the boisterous call of a circus barker. An effortless heave catapulted the large dining table across the room toward a trio of armed men who barely managed to escape it's trajectory by diving out of the way. Food and settings sprayed out in all directions, raining down in a chaotic mess as the table smashed into the wall and toppled down to barricade the access door to the kitchen. Claire stood awestruck by the show of force and Hyde couldn't resist crowning the feat with the blow of a kiss.

Utterson got to her feet and with a discontented sigh, brushed some of the fallout from her suit. “I advise against this course of action, Mr. Hyde. It will only serve to get you both killed.”

“Thanks for the tip, granny, but I've got places to go and things to do, the wife for one.” He slapped his hands loudly together, noting with glee the reactionary startle it triggered down the row of men, then rubbed them eagerly together as if warming up for the next act in his repertoire. “So if you don't mind, I'll settle for a quickie massacre then me and the missus will be on our merry way to make with the merry.”

“Better men than you have tried and failed to kill me, Mr. Hyde,” Utterson sneered as a team of five soldiers filed in from the hall, joining the already bloated numbers. There was a chorus of chambering rounds as the deadly glow of laser sites lit up Hyde's chest like a Christmas tree. He couldn't help but smile at the delicious irony of another standoff. Déjà vu times two.

“Run along now precious, while I settle up the bill,” he directed Claire. But rather than follow his suggestion, Claire stormed across the room and up to Hyde, landing a ferocious slap across his face.

“Why didn't you tell me you were dying?” She demanded.

“Well, for one thing, Sweetums, you tend to get a bit slap-happy with bad news. Don't get me wrong, love a bit of the rough and tumble before supper but we might have to take a pass seeing as how we're surrounded by gun toting Mary's with itchy trigger fingers so what do you say we save the marital hissy fit for later and focus on the mission at hand.” He jutted out his jaw, challenging her to strike it again only to retract it a moment later as confusion creased brow. He leaned in close to her and mumbled discretely through stiffened lips, “By the way, what's the mission?”

“We're leaving.”

“But I haven't eaten yet,” he whined.

“We're going.” She directed and marched a determined path around him and towards the heavily defended double doors. Hyde scanned the room of nervous faces, delighting in the stench of sweat and fear.

“Aw, can't I kill a few then we can go? There's a twitchy one in the back that's just too cute to pass up.” He made a show of smacking his lips before chancing a few steps towards the men. The red specks followed his movement with the accuracy of trained marksman.

“You are not doing this.” Claire shouted as if the standing order was intended for everyone in the room. She advanced towards the exit blockaded by three of the men and attempted to shoo them aside with a gesture. “We're leaving now.” Adorable as it was, Claire's directions weren't being minded and Hyde was exceedingly grateful for it.

“There's no rain check on rampages, dearest. You and Daddy had your fun. Time for mine.” Hyde smiled wide as the lights flickered for a spell to finally extinguish, casting the room in darkness. He reached out, grasped Claire by the arm and with a yank, sent her spinning to the far end of the room as a series of muffled shots rang out. She collided with a chair and tumbled to the floor as Hyde positioned himself between her and the armed men. More shots fired and Hyde tensed in expectation of being hit but all whirred close but safely by him, thwarted by the dark. Hyde, however, didn't suffer from such pitiful defects.

Using the veil of night to his advantage, he spied every blinded foes location, scooped up a handful of discarded cutlery and moved swiftly but quietly out of his assumed position. More muted shots sounded and failed to strike. Hyde returned fire with his improvised projectiles, throwing them with uncanny precision to fend off the armed guards. All met their marks. A salad fork caught the nearest man in the eye, burrowing deeply enough to drop him like a stone. The next queued victim suffered a brilliant butter knife to the soft flesh of his neck, his blood spurting out like a worn through garden hose as he clasped at it in shock. A steak knife stabbed through the forearm of the man unknowingly bathing in his companion's blood. He howling out in agony, such a gorgeous melody Hyde wished he had Daddy's Dictaphone to record the moment. The clueless and now panicked bloke remaining at the double doors felt the full on assault of a soup spoon as it ricocheted off his rifle, misdirecting his aim just as he fired. A twang sounded as it struck the neck of a man shuffling forward to reinforce the door. He instantly folded to the floor. As more culinary missiles met with success, the injured men's rounds went wild, splintering stained wood and shattering glass. Others fired, tracking the sound of Hyde's movements but always a beat too late. One lucky shot grazed Hyde's arm as he hoisted a chair. Suddenly the lights recovered and Hyde took a wound to the thigh. He glanced down to see a dart protruding from his leg, then another struck high on his chest and another in his neck. He kept moving, ignoring the multiple stings of darts piercing his back. He charged towards the heavy wooden table where Claire was taking cover.

“Careful, we need him intact!” barked one of the men and the firing ceased.

Hyde glanced back over his shoulder to see reinforcements filing through the double doors and quickly cutting off both exits. Change of plan, he thrust the chair through the stained glass window, bursting the glass on impact. He paused to catch his breath only to realize he'd never had to before. A strange fog seeped into his mind, slowing his movements. It was the darts, tranquilizers. He reached out for Claire who quickly climbed to her feet.

“Time to go!” Hyde ordered, trying his best to hide his impairment from her and the others. Her eyes went wide staring beyond him.

“Look out!” she shouted and reached out for him.

The single shot was deafening, the bullet struck low, tearing into his back and out his abdomen. The pain was instantaneous, searing like a white hot spear piercing clean through him. He forced a breath and shoved the pain aside in his mind, just as before, until it receded to a manageable nuisance. Hyde grit his teeth and sucked in a breath as he spun around to see Utterson holding the smoking gun. She let it fall loose in her hand, swinging on her fingertip like some child's toy. She held it out for one of the men to take from her, as if it had been beneath her to be driven to such a menial task. Somehow that made it all the worse. It made Hyde angry, overriding the scalding flesh of his wounded stomach.

“You'll have to do better than that,” he snarled through a sinister smile.

“No darling, I don't.” She was too sure of herself and Hyde didn't like it.

“Tom?” Claire called from behind him, the notes of her voice uneasy. “I think I'm in trouble.”

He could smell it, the tangy essence of blood distinctive from the abundance tainting the air. He glanced back, catching a dash of red in his halfhearted double take when he realized it wasn't his blood that stirred his notice, it was Claire's. She'd been struck in the stomach just like him but unlike him, she was worried. More than that, she was terrified. Her eyes glistening wide with panic, she collapsed forward, spilling clumsily into his arms. Confused, it took a fraction of a second more than it should for Hyde to catch her and he carefully lowered her to the floor, staring uselessly at the blood pulsing from the perfect wound. “Claire?”

“I'm sorry,” she whispered and as her body began to quake with the onset of shock, she grasped at his hand and held it tight. For the first time since his death, Hyde felt fear.

“I warned you about such rash actions, Mr. Hyde,” Utterson called, a hollow noise among the sea of chaos.

Hyde reached down with trembling fingers to stem the flow but blood gushed forth like some surreal fountain, hot and sticky, coating his skin with a ruby sheen. Claire winced in pain and he withdrew, trying in vain to sooth her discomfort with an awkward but gentle pat to the arm. Her heart raced, every beat sending a spring of red to stain the floor and her one beat closer to death. Her breathing grew shallow and forced and his with it.

“I don't know what to do,” he admitted with the shy voice of a fearful child.

“Don't do what they want,” Claire mumbled, fading in and out of consciousness. “Don't ever listen to them. Just go.”

“Go where? You're here,” he said, not understanding.

“I'm afraid Mrs. Jackman hasn't the benefit of your healing talents, Mr. Hyde. Such a wound could prove fatal and is most certainly uncomfortable.”

“I'm sorry,” Claire whispered again and again in a maddening and useless plea.

“Stop saying that. It's just a scratch. See, I have one too?” He gestured to the weeping injury of his abdomen but Claire didn't bother to look. She was sickly and growing cold and it didn't make any sense. Frustrated, he pressed his hand to the wound only to curse the surge of blood it caused. “It won't stop. Tell me what to do.”

"Go. Please... go..." Her body seized, her slight frame quaking as she tried to speak, spluttering empty breaths that choked under agonizing strain. The color dulled from her features. The faintest of whispers escaped her ashen lips, muddled by her labored breaths but clear as a scream to Hyde, “I love you.” And having made her peace, Claire's grip on Hyde's hand went slack, her eyes rolled back to white and her body fell deathly still.

“Claire?” The only answer was the weak rhythm of a heart fading fast. She was dying and Hyde was helpless to stop it. “You have to wake up, Claire.” He waited for a response that never came.

“We can help her, Mr. Hyde.”

“Claire?” He choked on her name.

“All we require is that you do the same for us.”

He sat for a moment, suffering in silence, head bowed down as he stared at Claire's motionless form beneath him. “What do you want?” he asked softly.

“Anything I ask for,” Utterson said. “You've no other choice.”

Hyde whipped around and up on his feet in one fluid, inhumanly fast motion and roared, “Tell me what you want!”

The men fired, sinking seven more darts in Hyde's chest but didn't get so much as a blink of response to them as he stood his ground. They hastily reloaded and took aim. After a defiant moment, Hyde's threatening stance wavered as he swayed on his feet, his head growing increasingly heavy as the tranquilizing effect overtook the pain of losing Claire.

“You can start by tying up a few loose ends.” Utterson smiled broadly. “Be a dear and fetch those lovely grandchildren for me as well. I think we're long overdue for a family reunion, don't you?”

A final dart stabbed at his neck, instantly paralyzing Hyde. His legs buckled under him and he collapsed to the floor, a useless puddle of numbing flesh. By mere will, he landed sideways enough to fix his blurring gaze on Claire bathed within a crimson pool. He reached out for her, the ghostly curves of her face accompanying him into the bitter black of unconsciousness.


part 14 ...