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playing the villain

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Wells stares at Verne with growing horror.

“What do you mean, that’s none of your business?” he asks. “You have a mad scientist in the basement who is keeping a few girls captive! Whose experiments have left his assistant deformed, and who is so crazed as to take Violette into an unknown point in the future to keep her captive, yet what he does is none of your business?”

Verne shrugs, much to nonchalant for the situation.

“He’s my guest. It’s not my business to pry into what he does.”

“Verne, did you not hear me? He has people trapped in your basement!”

“Wells, my boy, I’m certain you realize that he did create them. Violette, as enchanting as you may find her, was crafted by Dr. Furio, and he is the one who breathed life into her. Does that not mean that he is legally her guardian, and therefore can be trusted to make decisions regarding where she lives and who it is good for her to associate with?”

“She’s a grown woman, one with her own mind and feelings!” he argues. “She’s miserable down there! Anyone with eyes can see that. He doesn’t treat her right!”

Verne sighs.

“It’s not my business to tell him how to treat his things.”

“She’s not a thing!”

“You’re getting worked up,” Verne says, leading him over to a chair. “Take a few breaths. I know that this past day has been full of surprises and wonders. Perhaps you need some time to process everything.”

“Wonders?” Wells asks. “I have seen impossible things, and they all have tried to kill me. Most of them, you invited into your own home!”

“But no one has died,” Verne says, “and you must admit that we saw wonders. I took you to the moon, and to the depths of the sea.”

“Then you left me there to be attacked by Nemo and her sea creatures! If not for Arronax, I would have died!”

“It is not my fault that you weren’t as quick to follow me back up to the surface.”

Wells stares at Verne: his relaxed posture, the easy tilt of his smile, the fact that he was smiling at all. He could have died multiple times over the past day, and Verne might not have even batted an eye. Does he care at all?

“Do you realize how dangerous the people that you invited to your house are?” he asks finally. “Nemo and Moreau specifically had no good motives. Are our lives a game to you?”

“You haven’t complained about Phineas, the adventurers, or the sky pirates. Surely if I planned to watch you suffer I wouldn’t have given you allies.”

“If you admit to giving me allies, it sounds as if you meant to give me enemies, as well.”

Verne considers him for a second. It’s the first time since getting to the mansion that he feels his hair stand on end from the other man’s gaze. Until now, Verne had seemed benign, if a bit reckless with his associates. This doesn’t feel like that at all. This feels cold and calculating.

“Wells,” he says softly, “would you believe me if I said I wouldn’t have let you die here?”

The truth scares him, so he stays silent. Verne must see the answer in his eyes, though, because he nods.

“Very well.” He starts for the door, pauses, and looks back over his shoulder. “You are my guest, Wells. You may stay here as long as you like. However, Dr. Furio has been my guest for longer, enough so that he really is more of a house-mate now. I will not tolerate any theft of his property, nor attacks against him. Is that understood?” Wells nods. “Good.”

Verne leaves the room, and Wells lets out a breath.

He has to get Violette out of this place. This unexpected enemy doesn’t change that. As simple as the threat had been, however, he can’t help but feel that Verne has much more sinister weapons than words at his disposal.