Dusk was falling and the streets were mostly empty. A fine mist had started creeping across the cobbled streets and the yellow-ish street lights cast everything into hazy shadows and sharp white-yellow shapes. In this hour just before dark fell, the towering brick houses with their drapes drawn across the windows and their iron fenced gates chained shut seemed to loom hauntingly above the narrow streets where, hours earlier, steam-powered carriages and cars had zipped back and forth. But now, everything was silent.
In fact, the only people walking down the street were a tall man and his rather short companion. To be more precise, the short one was limping along beside the tall one, supported by the tall man's firm grasp.
"I told you not to run off." Said the tall, nameless zombie, his dark brown trench coat tossing around the ankles of his metal spiked boots. With the awkward way he was holding his friend, the steam-pack dangling from his shoulder that powered his shoulder lantern was twisted behind his back.
"But if I hadn't, then that kelpie would have used the water from the fountain to flood the entire courtyard." Came the reply from his short friend. The black, long sleeved shirt, the emerald green dress jacket, and the taupe colored pants he wore were soaking wet.
"Hanna..." The zombie sighed.
Hanna Falk Cross was something of a self proclaimed Paranormal Investigator and in the Victorian Era, he was considered to be something of an avoidable oddity. His eyes were electric blue behind thick lensed glasses and they clashed severely with his burnt red hair. And despite his small stature, he was twenty-four years old.
His friend, the six foot tall, nameless zombie, had come upon him almost three weeks ago. The zombie had no memory of who he was or had been and, having no where else to go, had asked Hanna to hire him as a partner. Hanna had been eager, if wary, for his help. Being a Jack of the paranormal sort, he was obligated to be a little cautious of anything not on the human side of things. But as time had passed, the zombie had ceased to be an oddity for Hanna and became a roommate and close friend.
"We should see Worth." Said the zombie.
"I can fix it by myself..." Hanna muttered in something almost like a whine. The light from the a nearby street lamp flickered and caught the glass cover of a circular container on the leather vanbrace on his right arm. Just beneath the glass, black ink swirled like a captive spirit.
"No." Said the zombie firmly, turning them down an alley whose walls were stained with grime and smoke, "The last time you did that, you tightened your steam valve too tight and it snapped and you ended up giving yourself second-degree burns from the pressurized steam."
"Haha," Hanna laughed weakly, "But you gotta admit, this thing sure comes in handy!" He tapped his fingertips on his mechanical left leg.
The zombie didn't know why Hanna had that steam-powered left leg and the red-head refused to tell him. But without the leg piece, Hanna wouldn't be able to walk. The zombie had seen what was left of his human friend's left leg; a mangled mess of what had once been a limb. Whatever had happened, it hadn't been good. But Hanna wasn't about to tell him.
And that was fine. Because the zombie wasn't about to push him.
"Yes, it is handy." The undead friend agreed, "But I'm not going to let you try and fix it yourself anymore. We're going to see Worth."
"Alrrriiiiiggghhhtt..." Hanna said in a defeated tone, his shoulders drooping even as he half-smiled, "He's gonna be so angry...!"
The zombie rolled his one visible eye. The other, barely visible beneath the edge of his fedora, was covered by a circular piece of neon blue glass encased in silver steel.
When they arrived at door with 312 scrawled on it in faded red paint (or what was supposedly paint), the zombie opened the door without even knocking and dragged his friend through the door. The "good doctor" was lounging behind his desk, his scuffed black dress shoes propped up on it. When he heard the door open, he glanced up, the gold and emerald locket on the collar around his neck clinking as he moved. He took one second to analyze the situation.
"Dammit, Hanna!" Doc Worth stood up so violently, a bit of ash fell off the end of his cigarette, "What the hell did you do this time!?"
"A...uh...nothing." Hanna muttered sheepishly as his undead friend helped him into a sagging chair.
"Nothin'..." Worth growled, stalking around his stained and cracked desk to stomp up to Hanna, "Was not nothin' you stupid, stubborn, glock! Lemme see that gammy leg of yours!" Hanna flinched backwards on impulse as the doc crouched down and reached for the mechanical limb, running his greasy fingers over the dented and scraped metal. Hanna said nothing, jest let Worth go about his business.
Doc Worth, from what the zombie understood, had never completed medical school but Hanna trusted the blonde man with his life, that much was clear. As far as the nameless zombie knew, Worth had been the one who had created the steam-powered leg that was so essential to keeping Hanna mobile.
"Damn it all, Hanna!" Worth snarled as he unhooked a clasp that held the knee joints together, "What the hell did I tell you about water!?"
"ThatwaterwasbadandIshouldn'tputmyleginitbutIcouldn'thelpitbecauseifIdidn'tthenthecourtyardofLadyBristol'smansionwouldhavebeenfloodedandIwouldhavelostthejob!" Hanna said all of this very quickly and all in one breath.
Worth's eyes narrowed and he stepped away from Hanna, taking his cigarette out of his mouth and letting a stream of smoke past his lips, "Damn straight. You," He nodded to the zombie (Worth only ever called him "You"), "Get ready to hold that idiot down, he's managed to screw up pretty much everything on that leg of his."
The zombie shared a glance with Hanna. The young Investigator shrugged, grinning, but he was pale. Worth wasn't know for his subtlety.
The doctor stomped across his tiny office room, hands in the pockets of his fur-lined, sleeveless white overcoat, and started rummaging through one of the many chest of drawers that lined the stained, yellow-ish walls of his office.
"Oh, h-hey Worth." Hanna called out to the doctor who had his back to the other two, "Has Connie stopped by lately?"
"Yesterday." Worth muttered, "Damn worthless vampire kept whining in my ear! Next time, I'll send him to you!" He turned back around, a wide array of tools in his arms, "Try not to bite yer tongue this time. You, hold him down."
The zombie stepped around and clamped his hands on Hanna's shoulders. Hanna licked his lips and clenched his fists on the arms of the chair. Worth noticed his reaction as he kicked a stool underneath the ruined mechanical leg to prop it up and sneered,
"Maybe you'll remember this next time ya' go runnin' into a fuckin' mess of water sprites, eh Hanna?"
Hanna just nodded quickly, keeping his mouth clamped shut. Worth yanked another chair around and plopped down into it, his tools at his feet and his cigarette held in his teeth. Then he took a wrench and loosened the bolts around the knee joints, pulling back the brass plates to expose the wires beneath.
Worth made disgusted noise in the back of his throat, "Hanna, you complete and utter moron! Even the damn nerve endings are shot! Dammit!" He sat back and removed his cigarette, crushing it in his fingers, "I'm going to have to rewire everything and re-pressurize the steam container and valve! Hope you're happy!"
"I didn't do it on purpose!" Hanna retorted.
"I don't care!" Worth expertly unclipped the clasps that were holding the steam-powered leg to Hanna's mangled limb, "I gave you some fucking damn rules to follow when I gave you this leg, Hanna Falk Cross! This thing is damn hard to fix!" He pulled the mechanism off, "Now you're gonna go home and you're gonna stay there until I tell you otherwise!"
"No buts!" Worth snarled, getting to his feet, "You. Stay. Home." Hanna opened his mouth to protest but the deadly glare Worth was giving him made him close it again, "And You!" The doctor jabbed a finger at the zombie who was still holding Hanna to the chair, "You keep him at home or I'll give you some more damn scars worse than the one under that glass monocle of yours!"
The zombie said nothing to Worth. He hooked his hands under Hanna's arms and hauled him up out of the chair.
"You're a lifesaver, Worth!" Hanna piped up with a smile as his undead companion hauled him onto his back, piggy-back style.
"Yeah, yeah, whatever." Worth muttered, "Just shut the hell up, you need sleep."
"But I'm not--OW!" Hanna yelped and twitched as Worth jabbed him with a syringe he'd yanked from the vanbrace on his right arm, "What was that!?"
"Sleepin' drug." Doc Worth replied with a grin, "Now, You, take him home and make sure he stays there!"
The silent zombie nodded once and left. Worth rubbed a hand over his blonde hair, scowling, "Damn it, Hanna! You're the reason I don't get any sleep anymore...!"
Out on the dark street, the nameless undead was carrying his very much alive friend towards the little cottage on the edge of town Hanna had the gall to call a house. It was really just a small, wooden shack with an ankle high rock wall lining the dirt path, one large room that made up the living room, the kitchen, and (since the zombie had no need for sleep) Hanna's bedroom, and another tiny room that was more of a closet than anything else.
"This timing stinks..." Hanna grumbled, slouched over his friend's back, disregarding the shoulder lantern that was almost in his face, "We were supposed to go on a trip with Conrad and Vesser and Toni and Ples and--."
"We were going to the market."
"Yeah, that's a trip..." Hanna was sounding more and more sleepy, "An adventure..."
"Sure Hanna, an adventure."
Silence for a while and then, "Hanna?"
"I don't think you should go."
If he expected an argument, he didn't get one. Hanna's breathing was soft and deep. That drug of Worth's, whatever it might have been, had obviously worked.
The nameless man, dead though he was, sighed and turned down a rough dirt road towards their home.
A home with a room and a half.
A home with runes and symbols and half-finished poetry scribbled across the bare walls.
A home with ancient books stacked in teetering piles around the worn out floorboards.
A home where Hanna slept either on a pile of blankets on the floor or on The Couch that sat against one wall.
A home that was away from the scornful eyes of society and its hierarchy of black and white, right and wrong.
A home that, for Hanna, had been so very lonely though he would never, ever admit it.
The zombie lay the sleeping young man on The Couch, draped a blanket over him, and stepped back. Hanna was a very dear friend and the zombie looked after him like an older brother.
And whatever came their way, they would plow through it. All the zombie needed to do was make sure he had some sort of medical package in waiting for when Hanna was finished running himself ragged.