A/N: I posted this fic on Ao3, and on Ao3 alone. If you read this on any other website or platform, please consider that I did not consent to this.
The moment he pulled his trigger the pain exploded. The pain in his shoulder, the pain in his heart. Something tore, he was not sure if it was a muscle or something in his soul.
Brenner was dead now, his mother avenged. And all of a sudden there was nothing left for him. Nothing he could hold onto. Where he had hoped to find relieve was only emptiness left now. No satisfaction, not even regret. Just nothing. Nothing was left.
Lukas was waiting outside with a sledge, and in this moment he loved the boy for his courage. He had come for him to pick him up, bring him home, even when he had no chance of knowing the outcome. Greider greeted him with a weak smile, just enough to lift the corner of his mouth a few millimetres. He was too tired to smile.
People were standing in the streets, silently watching him. He could feel their eyes on him, the silent uncertainty they all felt. But he was too tired to care. It was a blessing that Lukas was there though, to help him onto the sledge, to direct the horses. Greider wasn’t even sure if he would have found the right way back up to Mrs Gader’s house. He felt a little dizzy, and cold… it was so cold…
When they arrived it was getting dark already. Not really a surprise to Greider, it was always dark up here now. Dark and cold. He must have nodded off during the ride, but jerked awake when Luzi’s voice pierced the frozen air.
“Greider? Was ist passiert?”
He tried to stand up and nearly fell over. Blood was rushing in his ears, he clutched the sledge. His head was spinning. His hands were shaking. Not only his hands.
“Greider!” With a few steps Luzi was at his side. She exchanged a quick look with Lukas, told him to unyoke the horse. Then, her attention returned to him. Her strong hands felt heavy on his shoulders as she guided him inside. Even this slight pressure made his wound ache, but he grit his teeth and suppressed the groan of pain that threatened to escape his throat.
She still must have felt him flinch because she looked at him with pity and worry. “Du bist verletzt.”
“It’s fine… es geht schon,“ he breathed and tried to get hold of the door frame and stand on his own. He swayed and nearly blacked out from the effort though, and Luzi had a hard time preventing his fall.
On the edge of his consciousness ne noticed her mother hurrying out of the kitchen. “Gott, was ist passiert, Luzi? Greider?” But none of them replied, and Mrs Gader quickly reached out to help her daughter steadying the injured man.
How they had managed to shove him up the narrow stares he did not remember, all he knew was that he suddenly found himself in his bedroom, sitting on the bed while Luzi carefully removed his coat and boots. Greider shuddered. Why was it so cold in here? He wanted his coat back, at least it had kept him halfway warm. Instinctively he reached out for the piece of clothing that Luzi mercilessly took away from him.
“Bitte… es ist kalt…”
“Du hast Fieber,” was all she said before she left the room.
A few moments later – or it could have been hours, Greider was no longer aware of how much time really had passed – she and her mother entered the room again, this time with bandages, clean towels and a bowl of hot water.
When they now took off his shirt too, he started shaking. He couldn’t help it, the tremors ran down his spine, took hold of his neck and shoulders, he barely could stop his teeth from chattering. The hot water on his wound hurt, but also felt so good, until Luzi started cleaning it. The pain started in his shoulder but quickly spread all the way down his arm. He nearly threw up. Bright spots danced in front of his closed eyes. Greider tasted copper, he must have bitten the inside of his cheeks bloody.
Then, the pressure on the wound went away, the pain lessened. Greider couldn’t help a relieved groan when now Luzi and Mrs Gader carefully wrapped his shoulder with the bandage they had brought earlier. By the time they had finished their task and helped him to put on a clean shirt of his Greider was no longer certain if he could sit upright on his own any longer. The room around him became blurry.
Finally, Luzi helped him to lie down. Greider closed his eyes. He was shaking with exhaustion and fever, his breathing was laboured. He could hear his own rapid heartbeat thrumming inside his head. Then, through the thick fog clouding his mind, Luzi’s quiet whisper reached his ear: “Shh…” He was drifting off again, but not into the deep, black sleep that his body was craving. It was more of a feverish dream, he was drifting close to the surface, not really able yet to let go.
Carefully the young woman wrapped the blankets around him. Her presence calmed him, reminded him of his mother. Just like she had taken care of him when he had fallen ill as a boy… Then, the slow regular ticking of the metronome came to his ear. A single tear ran down his face. His breathing evened out. The metronome… his mother.. and Brenner… Brenner was dead, finally… he had killed him…
Icy heat welled up in his chest, spread to his head and shook him. The bed was moving, tilting, he was falling …! Greider finally lost consciousness.
Three weeks it had been, they later told him. Three weeks of darkness and fever dreams during which he had barely clung to life. They had feared for him, at least Luzi, Lukas and their families. The other villagers… Well, Greider had not expected much gratitude for his deeds. This was not what he had done it for. He had done it for his mother, and only for her.
Now he was sitting in front of the mirror, his hands still weak but steady enough to shave off the beard that had grown in these weeks. Beneath it, his cheekbones were still looking unusually sharp. When he had been a boy, people used to say that he looked just like his mother. Then he had grown up, his features had sharpened, and he had looked less like his mother and more like himself. Only their eyes had still been the same, these dark brown eyes that were now staring at him from the mirror. Just like his mother’s…
Greider let his hand sink, the pain in his chest welling up again. It was not the pain from his healing wound, he barely felt this anymore. This pain was rooted deeper, in his very soul. Brenner had died by his hands. What he had done to his mother could never be forgiven, but Greider had hoped to at least make peace with it. He had done the right thing by killing Brenner and his sons, had he not? He wasn’t certain. Not anymore.
When spring came and the snow melted Greider was ready to set off. This village was no place for him, he did not belong here. Just like his mother had not belonged here. It was for the best if he left as soon as the mountain pass was free again.
The day he left was the first day that Greider felt strangely happy in a long time. A lot of it was probably relief to leave this place behind forever. He would always remember it, and what had led him there, but there was nothing binding him to this place any longer. Finally he was free.
One last time, he turned around, looked over his shoulder, back to the house where Luzi and Lukas stood. He had wanted to smile at them, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. His heart was still to heavy. Then he urged his horse to go on and turned away. The sooner he left this village behind the better. There was nothing left for him here.