M lays the groundwork for his grand scheme with the aid of Sanderson Reed and Dante.
M lays the groundwork for his grand scheme with the aid of Sanderson Reed and Dante. Paritally written for the Subtext Challenge by Prodigette.
(Author's note: As with nearly every League of Extraordinary Gentlemen fanfic that I write, this story is based on both the movie adaptation and the novelization of the movie, written by K.J. Anderson. I highly recommend this version, as it provides far more detail into characters and subplots. It is from the novelization that most of my details about Reed and Dante come from.)
For early March, the weather in London was warm. The unseasonable heat was made worse by the thick, drawn drops and crackling fire in the hearth inside a small flat on Baker Street. 221 A, to be precise. How any man could stand this heat for hours on end was a mystery to Sanderson Reed, yet he was standing before a man who intentionally kept the room this way.
"I have located them all, Pro- M." The bureaucrat was stiff and formal, as always. A true English gentleman, expect that he was working for a man who sought to plunge the entire world into war and profit no matter who won or who lost. "Mr. Gray will be here tomorrow, sir. Are you sure he can be trusted to carry out your plans as you require?"
"You question me?"
Reed nearly flinched, and he wore his utter discomfort on his face. The man in the armchair smirked. He was pale and thin, his facial bones highlighted even more by the dancing firelight. His dark eyes were shrewd and beyond calculating. He was well dressed, but it reminded Reed of the way corpses were dressed in their coffins. M, in the opinion of one of only three men yet aware of his full scheme, looked nearly as much of an undead as one of the members he intended to recruit for his "league." Smoke issued from the mastermind's mouth before he raised his cigarette holder and took a long drag from what it held.
"No, no," Reed stammered, holding up his hands as either protection or submission. Either way, M approved. "I would never question you, sir."
"I thought not."
"Herr Fantom, I await the orders of the Kaiser," a voice barked in perfect, clipped German. Reed was startled, and he turned.
He came face to face with a German officer. The uniform and decoration were exact, a pistol was at his left hip, a brace on his back would hold the sleek automatic weapons M had designed and had built, a riding crop was in his gloved right hand, and his pale eyes held an almost inhuman level of cruelty.
"Dante!" Reed Allowed himself a breath of relief when he finally recognized the other man.
"Bravo," M murmured with a chuckle that made Reed feel ashamed of himself. "If you can fool one of our own, Dante, then you will no doubt fool strangers." His tone was, albeit faintly, appreciative. The man loved theatrics, even on a small scale. On a larger one, they were absolutely vital. "Report back to me," Me said dismissively to Reed, "only when you leave for Africa."
Reed looked at M, trying to see the reason why he was being so suddenly dismissed. However, M's eyes were secure on his uniformed lieutenant, and Reed's presence was utterly ignored.
"Approach." Despite the low volume of the tone, it was still a command from M. Issued as soon as Reed had shut the door to the flat M was temporarily renting, it was immediately obeyed by the lean Dante. M's eyes scanned every inch of the uniform, lingering on Dante's right hand several times during this inspection.
"Do I meet your approval, James?" Dante's English was as clear as his German. Both had the perfect accent and intonation to pass for a native speaker. M had been thankful several times that he'd chosen someone so... adaptable... as his second-in-command from the very start of this operation.
"Very much so," M said. He gave a rare nod of approval before a hand rose. It settled itself barely above where Dante's right hand dripped the riding crop. "However, I don't remember instructing you to get this." He raised an eyebrow as he trailed his thin fingers down the rod and hooked one briefly in the leather at the end before he looked back at the now smirking Dante.
"I thought it a nice addition to your excellently planned ensemble," the other man said calmly. "I can always dispose of it if you do not approve, of course."
"Now, now. I said nothing of the sort," M replied slickly, his hand catching Dante's wrist as the other had, rather unconvincingly, faked going for the door. "Nor did I dismiss you." It was almost a threat. Once more, his eyes turned to the accessory Dante had felt entitled to add. "Still," he whispered with a gleam in his eye, "I wonder how much bite it has. I could hardly allow you to carry something that, when used, is less than ideal in its effectiveness."
Dante inclined slightly at the waist and dutifully offered the riding crop forward. "I would not dream of using something you have not tested and approved, James."
M took the rod and examined it where he sat. "Brand new. The leather is crisp and straight, not limp from us. The body is sturdy, but I am anxious to see it hold up to blows." Dante watched his commander stroke every bit of the riding crop as he examined it. His pale eyes flashed, and not in distress, to think how the rod would be tested. "A rather thick base," M commented with what sounded like a note of approval and amusement, "and the handle's leather grip is still rough, not worn soft by palming. No wonder you wore gloves to handle it now. Of course, when I'm done, they'll be of no use." His eyes met Dante's, and an understanding was conveyed.
"When would you like to see how it performs?" Dante asked, more than willing to act at his leader's bidding.
"Isn't Mr. Gray coming tomorrow morning?"
"Yes." A small pause led M to shrug before he handed the riding crop back to his lieutenant. "What should I care if I keep a conceited hedonist waiting while I sleep in? He has surely done it to others."
"Whatever you desire, sir." It was nice to know that James was not planning to offer the immortal any special treatment, Dante had to note.
"Now," M said imperiously, eyeing Dante and his riding crop with a savage hunger that would have made lesser men flee outright, but Dante did not even flinch, "go."
Dante left the room and ascended the stairs. M followed after taking another long drag from his lit cigarette before he put it out. He hand an entire case of cigarettes upstairs, and he would not need his holder for them.