AN: I just want to know more about Hal, honestly that boy is so tortured! I thought this would have been a cool moment in the show and decided that I'd just have to write it down and see what came out. The answer was angst and longing.
Thank you Toby Whithouse for the incredible world of Being Human.
His hands shook and sweat slicked his brow. The National Museum of Cardiff was hosting a glorious selection of Romanic era paintings, according the pamphlets that littered the front of the local Co-op. The flowing gown and subtle flushes of the Soul of the Rose that graced every piece of paper only reminded him of her, of familiar temptations.
So, he hurried forth, ignoring the chilling winds that bit at his exposed skin and the milk he was meant to buy on his way home for Annie's tea. For he could not allow his gaze to linger upon the auburn waterfall of her hair because she reminded him so much of her.
The ghost with no material presence but found him in the evenings before he succumbed to sleep or in his moments of weakness to the ancient hunger that enslaved him. She had suffused herself into his every breath, all marred by fathomless penitence. To see even a small reminder of their brief time together sent him reeling away from the grey footpath of Barry to the rolling verdant hills of a near forgotten time and to the manor that now stood a ruin born of flame. It was a place of afternoons spent in golden abandon that left a pricking in his chest, as if he had scratched an old, invisible wound.
"Hal!" footfalls broke his reverie, pulling him from the waters of memory that he found himself drowning within. He stuttered to a stop, blinking away the images that had invaded his mind, meeting the concerned eyes of Tom, "You alright mate? You left the caf in a real rush. Ain't about this afternoon is it?"
"No. I apologize, Tom. I was…lost in thought," Hal replied, grasping for the smoothness of the domino in his pocket.
"It's alrigh' anyways I was thinkin' tha' Allison, me, youself and Alex. We should go see that roman-tic stuff. So, you can be all impressive with 'er cause you'd know so much abou' it," Tom said, dragging his hand over the ragged pinkness of his scars, eyes wide and hopeful.
"What?" Hal hissed, "Tom I never agreed to go on this double date nonsense. You're pushing me into something that puts that girl in severe danger," he searched the young werewolf, whose face nearly impassive against the outburst, only a slight line between his eyebrows puckered gave away the fact that he had heard him.
"But Hal the las' thing you wanna do is kill. You're a good bloke and she was dead keen on you mate. Come on I want to 'ave a shower before we go." Tom left no room for argument, shooting Hal a look as soon as he opened his mouth to respond. The werewolf gripped his arm and pulled him up the hill towards the house, "Did you get the milk by the way?" he asked.
"No," Hal replied shortly, his chest constricted in a way that barely allowed him to get the word out.
"You're dead useless sometimes Hal," Tom said with a smile, warmth radiating from him.
Hal was sure he didn't deserve such a friend. With such belief in him. A man with such a whole-hearted radiance that melted the chains around him without a thought, whose laugh came so easily and trust even more so.
He wished he had the strength to pull his own teeth out.
"I know," Hal said.
The gallery's foyer was bare, a disgustingly common feature of so many modern monstrosities in Hal's opinion. He would have loved to give the person who thought minimalist design was a good idea a piece of his mind. There was nothing to distract his wandering thoughts in a room like this. He actively avoided looking at the flush that laid itself so prettily across Alex's cheeks. Instead, he focussed on the matches, Tom's matches—he wouldn't disappoint him.
But Alex was truly a picture, beyond worthy of any of the prose he could recite and exalt by heart. With skin of near translucent ivory and eyes of moss green, it was something he would have fallen for over and over again in the past; if just to bask in her beauty for a short while. It was an attraction that pained him to the point in which he would have consumed it wholly, if only to preserve her before time could have its chance to desiccate her.
"So, is this your thing?" she asked, her accent lilting and merry, breaking through the stillness of the gallery, "Paintings and the like? Bit of a history buff maybe?"
"Er, yes I suppose," Hal said, catching Tom's reassuring smile in his periphery, "romantic," he muttered pointing to the banner for the exhibition.
"Ah I see! So, this is all an attempt to be suave sugar?" the smirk curled across her face, her heart rate increased infinitesimally but it caught Hal's ear with its siren's song that called to him with the sweetness of wine.
"No!" he yelped, a few heads swivelled round to him, "Sorry…no. Nothing as…sordid. It was Tom's idea really. I—um studied art history at University so…he thought it was a good idea to come here."
"Ah! I see," Alex smiled again, it came so easy and smooth upon her face like syrup, "He's sweet your Tom you know. Like a puppy."
Hal snorted before he could stop himself, his fingers distracted from the matches for a moment as Tom's head swung around, his excited chat with Allison cut short, "Yes, some would say he has been house trained." Alex's laugh filled the space like tinkling glass. Hal felt a little knot in his chest unwind a touch at the sound and he smiled.
"Come on now!" Tom jumped between the two, dragging them further into the gallery, "We've got some paintins to 'ave a look at," he said.
"Do you think they have any Eugéne Delacroix Hal?" Allison asked, bouncing along beside Tom with a smile like morning sunshine.
Hal stared at the two in bemusement, "I'm not sure Allison. I haven't actually been to this exhibition."
He was glad that the two had attached themselves to his side, keeping Alex beyond arm's reach. Their chatter slid over him like cool waters, calming the itch of his throat and the feverous hunger that scratched the inside of his skull with rusted nails.
They meandered towards the exhibition, Allison brandished her Blue Peter badge and they followed the current of the crowds that ebbed around them. Hal went back to his matches, the familiar scratch of wood against his fingers, and the realignment of their little redheads left him with a little more breath in his lungs and a small reprieve from the orchestral swell of the heartbeats around him.
Tom and Allison had once again stuck their heads together, giggling and chatting. Leaving him with Alex, who smiled awkwardly, her eyes searching the walls. Hal felt a panicked envy rise in him towards the two as they passed the first exhibit of dowry portraiture; a popular, if trite trend of the era. He longed that like Tom he had the ability to be so at ease around others, that he could move amongst them without his finger twitching and the saccharine singing oblivion racing through his skull.
"So, tell me history boy what are these?" Alex asked, a mischievous smirk played upon her lips.
"Right," Hal muttered, "These are dowry portraits, made to send to future husbands from the families of wealthy women. They highlight a woman's best features…" his eyes flicked to a portrait of a young woman, ensconced in lace her hair piled upon her head in graceful waves, "see how the length of the neck is exaggerated from the use of a profile, the swoop of her nose and the rose of her cheeks? Essential features the cheeks, to show health for…ahem fertility," he was babbling at this point, making sure to keep his eyes glued to the mess of matches in his hands that he had nearly ordered.
"Right…I didn't realise you actually—um," Alex said, her eyes skipping over the women, "Then I'm assuming these are marriage portraits?" she said pointing ahead to the next section of the gallery, these paintings were larger, meant for stately homes instead of travel between future partners, "Do you think Tom and Allison will take a note from these guys' books?" she said, nodding her head towards the two who were inspecting a portrait of a dower looking couple.
"I hope not," Hal forced out a chuckle, "They don't look particularly happy."
"What about these two?" she grabbed his arm and swung around him. Even through the woolen barrier of his cardigan the feel of her almost burnt him in its intensity. He extricated himself quickly looking up to the portrait she gestured at, "Holy shit Hal! This bloke looks exactly like you."
"Wot!?" Tom appeared beside them looking as stricken as Hal felt. They were staring at a couple, the man dressed in a suit of dark blue that under some illusion of silver leafing it seemed to nearly shine under the fluorescent lights. Upon his arm was a near waif of a woman, auburn and pink, with a warm smile that was secreted at the corners of her lips. Contentment radiated from the image, it was so human and it twisted his stomach with painful contortions.
"Unknown Husband and Wife cira. 1800-1815, bit of a crap name for a portrait like this. Says the couple died in a fire but the portrait survived…Hey Hal, can you pronounce…Anne-Louis Gir-jero—"
"Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson," he whispered, as he stared at the couple that beheld the gallery with unseeing eyes. It had been an eternity since he had posed for the portrait but the feel of his hands upon her, as delicate as spider's silk and the warmth of the sun that streamed through the window with golden fingers had not left him. Nor had her chastisement when he shuffled from foot to foot or the laugh of Roussy, a friend of theirs, when Hal had expressed how uncomfortable he was at his image being captured—Old Ones were always a suspicious bunch he had said. They had both accepted him and loved him. The shock when he had seen himself for the first time in centuries. They had all cried.
The matches dropped to the floor, scattering with a clatter and leaving a little wooden crime scene. He didn't even notice.
"You alright Hal? You're acting a bit…mental," Alex asked, confusion was written across her face and he barely felt Tom's elbow digging into his side. Of course, she would not believe it was him, despite what he knew to be an incredible likeness. People would always believe what gave them the least nightmares, "Don't freak out. It's like Daniel Radcliffe you know, there are like tons of people in the past that look just like him." She laughed. God, she laughed. All her teeth on show like pearls and her head back all the way, her neck on full display. His insides growled, pain and lust hit him in waves, an unstoppable tidal pull that threatened to pull him into the wine-dark abyss. Tom kept his elbow where it was, a grounding and silent reminder.
"I ah—" his head turned without his command, and the room warped, Tom's face swam before him, his eyebrows knitted together with concern, "I'm fine. Sorry I…" Hal looked at Alex, so open and young and wanting.
Tom wouldn't be able to stop him.
A phone cut through the silence, the familiar ring of Tom's battered little brick. The werewolf gave a wane smile, eyes flicking between the two before he walked away phone against his ear. Unaware of the danger he had just put the girl in. So, trusting.
Hall stood, matches in hand once more but she just watched Tom's back with bemusement, eyes alight. Every muscle in his body was taught, he held himself frozen in fear as Allison sidled up to them, talking about symbolism in the art around them.
Hal did not listen.
"We've got to go," Tom said, grabbing Allison's hand as he spoke. The betrayal stung.
"What?" Hal hissed.
"Just focus on the matches," Tom whispered in his ear, "You can do this!"
"No glove…no love!" Allison proclaimed as she was led away by Tom through the throngs of humans. Hal tracked them through with a sinking finality.
They wouldn't be able to stop him.
"Do you think they loved eachother? Your past self and this lovely lady here," she asked turning back to the painting, unaware of the strain that plucked at every one of his tendons, each cell screaming at him to end this torment.
He met her eyes, the ones he had never forgotten. While Roussy was exceptionally talented, the artist hadn't quiet captured the mischief he knew lie within those depthless pools, or the way they shifted in the light from blue to green. She was still beautiful all these years later, a frozen memory in lace.
"I'm sure they did," he grit out, straining to keep the mask from slipping from him like water through his hands.
"How so?" Alex asked, genuine interest sparked beneath her playful façade. Her heartbeat quickened, much like a little hummingbird caught in the cage of her ribs. Hal wasn't sure whether it was nerves or if she, on some subconscious level, had realised the peril. The rabbit had seen the shadow of the hawk above them. The ancient thing, that beastly thing, thought it quite beautiful and grinned for the ancient game.
"Look at the way he holds her—delicate, hand over wrist is a symbol of their marriage. The Amaranth she holds between them and the Bellflowers in full bloom. The romantic era was rife with symbols within nature as Allison said before. I believe the Amaranth was a symbol of immortality, perennial blooms that one could never remove entirely from a garden and the Bellflowers were a symbol for unwavering love. Together they are…well…there is no doubt in my mind that they loved eachother. Perhaps even beyond the grave." It came out in a hurry, he nearly skipped over the words that spilled out of him in a deluge of nostalgic melancholy. Memories swam around him like a sweet balm consuming the ancient burn momentarily.
"Oh my God. You're a sop," she said, mouth agape with a broad smile, "I might have landed the only sensitive guy in all of Barry," she whispered, coming closer to him, blinking slowly her eyelashes kissed the flush of her cheeks as she searched his face, a small frown pulled at her lips, "Are you out of a long term relationship or something?"
"Something like that," he said.
"So, you're scared of commitment and you don't want to get hurt?"
His throat constricted, he nearly laughed at the irony, but it just came out as a strangled groan, "I don't want to hurt you."
Alex sighed, grasping at his hands, the heat of her radiated through him to the hypnotic rhythm of her heart, "Look, I'm only here a couple of days, so you don't have to worry about commitment. And I can look after myself, so you're not going to hurt me. And I'm not gonna hurt you. Well...Unless you really want me to," Hal's heart stuck in his throat at her gall, "So? What do you reckon? Come on, I won't even look you in the eyes." She closed them, hiding any ability for him to see her inevitable horror. She surrendered herself, her chin aloft slightly, angled towards him. He prayed to every god that would not listen at the sight—she was astounding.
He stared, the thrum of her blood, just beneath the delicate paper-thin skin of her throat. The need, the desire to give in pulled at him, called to him from the darkness, ancient and heady in its melody.
He couldn't do it. Not while she was watching.
He walked away.
"Who was she? That lady in the picture?" Tom asked later as they lounged in front of another episode of Antiques Roadshow.
"Someone who saved me. Long ago," Hal replied and sipped at his tea.
I always have a rough idea of when I am about to...revert. But this time, he came from nowhere. I was out riding when suddenly I decided to turn my horse round, ride back to the house and kill everyone inside it.
As if I was deciding to change into a warmer coat.
I worked my way up from the kitchens and found her sitting on our bed. She didn't look frightened, or even surprised.
She told me not to blame myself. She said it was stupid of her to think she could change me.
And then I laughed.