June 12th, 1906
I apologize for my lack of writing, as I have not really been awake for the last day or so. The running to and from London and the retributions and revenge wear you down if you are not careful, so upon returning to Epsom in the wee hours of Monday morning, I promptly didn’t wake until earlier today.
The rush of emotions returned. There was guilt, there was fear, there was affection and relief as I recalled the night at the bank, how everything had been so very macabre and so very hateful. There was the joyful presence of Peter and lovingness of Kurt (who I had refused to kiss for a while after he had devoured my father, simply because I didn’t want any of his remains on my tongue).
There had been so much that happened that it and made me so tired, as if I had been a dead man granted a few hours to be raised from his grave and now must begrudgingly return to it.
In short, everything feels odd but yet so magnificent.
Charles and Erik are saints and they didn’t mind boarding myself, Peter or Betsy for the couple days following our arrival. Betsy seems to have an affection for the place, though she has significant reservations about the other children, she has found friends in a darker girl called Ororo, who’s hair is nearly as white as Peter’s.
Speaking of the devil, he loves Wanda - and it makes me wonder had Peter never been an only child, she would make a nice little sister for him. As for Kurt, he apparently hasn’t been hungry since that night, and I can’t decide whether or not that fact is disturbing or hilarious.
When Erik woke me this morning, I have a feeling he hadn’t exactly meant to sound rude, but I somehow took it that way.
“When are you leaving?” he asked, face took close to mine.
I bristled, “We haven’t been here long, but whenever I suppose Kurt is healthy enough to go.”
Erik nodded, “You intend on taking him with you?”
“If that sits well with you and Charles then yes, I fully intend to take him.” I sat up from where I had pitched myself down on the chaise in the parlor, Peter on the floor besides me. “And the girl?”
“She is coming, too.”
Erik gestured down to Peter on the floor, “And the boy?”
“He has a family in the States.” Erik took in a deep breath, those his eyes lingered on Peter. “We apologize for setting ourselves up in your parlor so indecently, it was a long night.”
Erik eyebrow arches, but he doesn’t ask, only continues to look at Peter as if the boy is a ghost. Peter’s hand curls into a fist and he snorts a bit and I smile fondly at him.
“You’ve known him long?” Erik asks. “A few years, yes.”
“Why do you keep him around?”
“He’s good company, why else?”, now I find myself sounding rude but Erik doesn’t seem offended. “I know you’re a man of science, Erik. But its too early to come to me with so many questions before I’ve even had a proper meal.” I hold the pillow tighter before he nudges me up.
“This boy is your friend, yes? That’s all he is to you?” his voice is gruff, desperate almost and my confusion sets onto my face. “Why does it matter?”
Erik groans but he hesitates to give me real answer, “He adores Wanda, but she can’t do much for him.” he shakes his head. “Could you - could you watch him for me, please? I know he’s only your friend but if you care for him, for my sake, just make sure he stays out of too much trouble, make sure he turns out alright.”
My jaw sets and I glance down at Peter who hasn’t stirred much, and glance back up at Erik who states down it him with such affection, such worry as if he were to even touch Peter the boy would fall to pieces.
“He just graduated this year, sir. Sadly i was too drunk to attend the ceremony.” I smile a little sadly and Erik turns towards me.
“He’s that old?” he asks, my brows knit but i nod. “His birthday isn’t far off, you know.”
Erik’s eyes are downcast, as if in shame and they don’t return to mine. “I know. Thank you, Warren.” he gets up, telling me that there is breakfast if we still want it, but his eyes are drawn back to Peter sleeping on the floor, hair a mess, eyes softly fluttering, and face ten years younger. But I don’t hear him, I just look and look in concern and confusion.
“Is everything alright, sir? Why the concern?”
Erik chuckles, his eyes crinkle a little. “Nothing, Worthington. It’s just that I knew him a long time ago, though I wished I’d stayed to see him get so big like this.” he smiles and brings a finger to his lips as my eyes go wide, and he turns to walk out.
My eyes dart from Peter to the threshold and I am stunned, but I don’t say a word, but I just know.
I snuck some bacon out to Kurt, who was lazily floating about the pool when I found him - singing to himself. “Poet, you’re back!” he beamed, and I throw the bacon to him.
“Inamorata, how’d you sleep?” I take off my shoes and outer clothes and I am left only in my underclothes again, I jump into the pool feet first. I need to be close to him for a moment, his canary eyes are calling out to me and I will respond.
He swims towards me, “Slept fine, had a big dinner.” he mumbles, pressing the two of us close with his tail and I flush, he only leers.
“Deviant you are.” he snicker, “Hush, mensliche.” there’s a gentle bite to my neck and I can’t help but shiver. His tongue darts out to lick at the break in the skin that he’s made and I can’t help but give a choked little groan at the sensation.
“Kurt, god, if this is your attempt at seduction, you’re very persuasive.”
He smirks, damn him. “If this is all it took for you to become bothered, I would’ve used this to get you to release me ages ago.” he smirks and I laugh a bit nervously.
“Do you still want to be released?” I ask, pushing him away just slightly, I’m melting into his touch like some type of virgin, I hate this.
“More than anything, Engel.” my face falls. “If it were another river, not necessarily the Lahn - would you be upset?”
He looks up from his job of lavishing my neck in gentle bites and kisses and I pray he won’t leave marks. “I don’t want a cage, Warren. That’s all, I want somewhere that freezes over in the winter and rushes like an animal in the summer. I want otters and water snakes to eat and tadpoles to name. It doesn’t matter where.” I sigh and lean my head backwards so he has more room.
“But you want to go home once you’re healed, correct?”
He stopes moving, and I feel his lips come sucked in, “Do you want me to leave?”
“Of course not! Kurt - these last few weeks, I would hate to leave you now, or have you leave me, I would want to see you every day if I could but - I don’t think so.” I shake my head, “We’ve fallen in love and made a mess.”
Kurt leans against the edge of the pool, sighing. “A bird and a fish can fall in love, they can see each other every day, but they can’t live with one another without the other suffering.” he looks up at me, and his claw just barely caresses my cheek.
“I want to go back home, but the Lahn, it I think it would feel just a bit empty. I miss everything, but the one thing I think would hurt me the most to leave behind is you, Varren. ”
My heart stops and my throat goes dry. There was the night on the bank, when we shared our first kiss, he said something about mermaids hating each other, preferring the isolation to anything else except to their children and their mates.
“You would be lonely even with everything you love there?” I tried to hide the question: Do you think we’re mate, do you love me that much?
“A little.” he shrugs, I run my fingers over the marred flesh surrounding his gills and he whimpers a little, but he doesn’t shy away. “You would miss me?” he asks. “I can’t think of such a thing without suffering a mild heart attack.” he giggles and leans into me.
“I think we could settle something. I suppose. We couldn’t live together, but - somewhere close. Somewhere where I could simply walk to him. I feel him tilt my head back up and I feel his shuddery breath against my neck before I feel the sting of teeth clamping down at the skin.
I let out a yelp and push backwards, holding my neck. “Kurt! What was that?” he smiles, teeth tinted red.
“I marked you.” he snickers and it takes me a moment to understand, “You didn’t - “ but he only nods and I give a breathy laugh. “I won’t bleed out, no?”
“I’m not sure you’d care if you would.”
I bring him close again, nibbling at the webs of his ears and making him squirm a bit. “I’m sure you know what human ‘marking’ entails, yes?” he smirks, his eyes go a bit lidded and I feel him shiver.
“Show me.” I chuckle deep in my throat so he can feel it, “Eager thing, not now, though.” he rolls his eyes. “When?”
“When we’ve found a way to have birds and fish live together.”
I found Charles and Erik outside later on in the afternoon, a couple dozen children (and Peter) playing on the lawn and with them in a little alcove with high-backed wicker chairs and tea and surrounded by ivy and little budding irises. It was odd, though, one never seemed the same if they weren’t without the other.
“Warren, you’re leaving?” Charles asked with a smile. I shook my head, “You two seem so eager to have us put out, what’s the hurry?”
“I was only teasing.” he cast a wry took towards Erik who pretended to not be paying attention. “What is it, Worthington? Is Kurt doing alright?”
“Very, sir.” I blushed a little, I hoped to God they couldn’t see the bite mark Kurt had left behind. “But Kurt - he has no intentions of staying in that pool, you do realize that, yes?” I asked, hoping not to anger them.
“He told you that?” asked Erik, I nodded and he looked back to Charles for a few silent moments, their conversation was held entirely with their eyes and nothing else.
“Sir, I intended on leaving, but - after what’s happened I cannot be so sure. Kurt would miss me to much and I’m afraid I would be afflicted much the same way.” I clear my throat, “Is there a river close by, somewhere he can be kept after he’s fully healed?”
Charles seemed to be mulling it all over, “We don’t have many rivers, not here at least, I’m guessing Kurt prefers something more secluded?” I nod. “There is the Hogswell, but it runs right through town, and I’m not sure if he’ll be strong enough to not let the current have him wash up somewhere in Ewell.”
I bit my lip, clenching my fists, “I can’t take him back to Germany, neither of us will allow it, but I can give him something closer, if that’s alright with the two of you?”
Charles smiled, though there was a pang of guilt in it. “I should’ve known better than to let auctions and ambitions get in the way of something so young and passionate.” I sputtered a bit, but Erik’s wink was knowing. “You don’t want him too far from where exactly?”
“Well - I have to head north, but - not too far from here, I guess?”
“Do you have a job waiting for you?”
“An apprenticeship as well.”
“And a home?”
“First rent is due in the beginning of July.” the words felt like poison coming out of my mouth, of course I would have my Betsy and my books, but I couldn’t help but think how I would handle months without him, looking at how poorly I treated a week without him. Charles was right, this was too soon for such separation.
“You could stay here for the summer, and when school starts up again in the fall, there could be an opening for a teacher.” Charles leaned back, satisfied with himself.
“Teacher? Sir, I’m hardly a good leader, the room would turn to chaos within ten minutes.” I shook my head, “Please, you needn’t be so charitable.”
“But It is a debt we owe you, since it is somewhat our fault you were so separated from him in the first place.”
“Charles, wait - all that money we spent on Kurt, and you’re willing to give him away for free?”
“I’ll give you double of what my father gave you.” I blurted out, “I Can give you back at least half of what you were given for him now, and if I’m given the job, I can make it back in paychecks.” Charles’ eyebrows were raised, and he glanced towards Erik, “Dada, what do you say?”
“He’s hardly older than that one.” he glanced to Peter, who had just fallen on his face while running. “I doubt he’d fill the job properly, what would he even teach?”
“Depends now hat he feels he’s most skilled at, and we’ll work with him to make proper arrangements.” he smiled and I chuckled bit nervously. “This is all very new to me, sir. I’m horrible at making deals, and I’m not sure how I feel about a bunch of children looking to me for guidance. And Betsy, her family - they need money as well.”
“She was originally paid around twenty pounds per year, but all the money was sent to her mother in Scotland, now that she’s no longer working - I worry for them.”
“We send them ten pounds per month. Simple.”
“You’d do such a thing? For a family you hardly know and a girl who’s not even under your care?”
“She can stay as well, we’re already a boarding house, why not a school?” Charles was so nonchalant, as if the money from his works and his school was just to be thrown around so, and yet - all he was offering, a job and a place for Betsy with no need to worry for rent. All of it just seemed so damn tantalizing.
“And Kurt?” I asked, voice small, hoping he would answer my plea.
“There is the River Mole.” Erik blurted, taking another sip of tea. “About five miles southwest of this place - little over an hours walk.” Erik muttered, and I looked at him bemused. “That’s fine.” my voice a bit too sharp and quick, “That’s perfect. That’s - I can do that, yes, yes. Only five miles? Yes, that’s fine. That’s fine.” My brain wouldn’t function properly, too overwhelmed and overworked to do so. All these promises, all this closeness, and I could have Betsy safe and her family taken care of and I could have Kurt.
Thank God, I could have Kurt.
“What would be the pay?”
“Starting at, let’s say, a pound for every two weeks?” Erik nearly choked, “Starting?”
“Please, we don’t pay any of our teachers as little. He’s only beginning, I want to see him prove himself.
“As little? Then what’s the maximum?” I asked incredulously, Charles waved me off, “Prove yourself, Worthington, it can be arrayed in August, but I’m still eagerly awaiting your choice of class.” he smiled, “We’ve yet to see any marine biology here, maybe you could enlighten our ignorance or perhaps a class on poetry?”
I let out a laugh, though it probably sounded like a wheeze. I could barely stop smiling. “Thank you, the both of you. Thank you, I - I will try not to disappoint. I will try.”
They waved me off and I was gone, and everything around me was a mess.
June 16th, 1906
It had been while since I’d and a proper chat with Betsy, within the flurry of the School and Charles’ promises, the negotiating in Merseyside and loving Kurt and keeping an eye on Peter, I’d hardly so much s seen her, so I sought her out.
She was with Wanda in the back of the house, sitting against the high windows that looked into the greenhouse-pool, with a wide brimmed hat and throwing a ball so that Wanda could catch it and bring it back.
“Warren!” she beamed, her skin was pink again and by the looks of it- tanning nicely. “You’ve been avoiding me? I’m hurt.” she feigned hurt, throwing the ball back over towards Wanda.
“Not avoiding, just busy.” I smiled, she caught the ball again. “Are we leaving soon?”
“I don’t know if we’re leaving at all, Elizabetsy. That’s the odd part.” I shrugged, she looked at me as if I’d grown three heads. “We’re what?”, I was little taken aback. “You want to leave?”
“Well no, I mean - you prepared so much. What’s stopping you?”
“Charles and Erik offered me and home and job in the same place, and they said you can go to school here.” ‘
“Wouldn’t you have to pay?”
“No, most of the children here are orphans, so the education is free by default, no parents, no way to pay, it doesn’t seem to be an issue.” she nodded and turned back to Wanda, who had quit their throwing game in favor of searching for insects in the flower beds.
“I like it here though, I don’ t believe I’ve ever eaten so much in my life.” she snickered, I nudged her. “You’re looking so well, hardly the girl I remember.” i grinned and she pushed me away. “You’re right, I’m a whole new person now, I compete lady of airs I am.”
I laughed, “A lady of airs who can’t curtsey and would cuss and scream at any lord that asked for her hand in marriage.” she scoffed, “They’d hardly be good enough for me, I prefer Ororo.”
“You’ve only know her less than a week.” she turned to be, eyes intent and her gaze unfaltering. “I prefer Ororo, I do.” and I nodded, not sure if I had angered her.
“Have you found anything yet, Wanda?”
“Just a bunch of crawlers and crickets, but I got nothing. I’ve found bloody nothing.”
“Wanda,” I butt in, “What would your Dada say if he heard you speaking so raunchily?”
“I’d taught you well.” I couldn’t help the snort of laughter that came out, Betsy laughed, too, and I relished in the sound.
“So how are you?” I asked, it seemed forever since I had. I always asked her how she was, because it seemed that nobody else would care.
She leaned into me, watching as Wanda attempted to pick up a centipede. “Just fine, right here, ya bloody sinner. I’m just fine.” I kissed her forehead and she giggled and I felt the warmth in my chest and a feeling of something resembling reassurance. Betsy would be fine, she was always fine.
“And my Mum?”
“It’s been arranged.” I whispered back to her, and she let out a shuddery breath of relief. I thought of my Mum, I don’t know how everything had gone over in London, but I knew I couldn’t go back for some time. I would have to wait several Sundays to visit her again, but I’d be sure to tell her everything if she didn’t come to me first.
Yes, we’d be just fine.
June 17th, 1906
“Kurt, can you find your footing?” I ask.
“I don’t have feet, Varren.” I rolled my eyes and let him down a bit farther into the Mole, the current wasn’t too strong, and it ran with thick forest on one side and clearing on the other. Not as wide as his Lahn, but he didn’t seem to mind, he clung tight to my arms as if not wanting to let go.
“Varren, hold me tighter?”
“Afraid of water are we?” I smirked, he smacked at my arm, “I should drown you, you know.” he snarked at me, I only snickered. “Not a terrible way to go, if I shall die by your hands.”
He smiled, leaning up to kiss me before falling completely into the water and disappearing. I went to strip off my clothes again, constantly looking behind me to make sure no one could see, but I’m pretty sure we were blocked by the hansom, with the only one watching us being the horse.
“Kurt, I’m coming in.” I called out to him, ready to jump before I felt the familiarity grip of his hand and the cold splash of water and lips.
I felt at home with those lips, and even as he began to lap at the mark he’d left behind I only shuddered in his vice grip on me.
When I finally floated up for air I felt his claw just barely nudge at the waistband of my underclothes.
“Off? Please?” he whispered. “Just want to feel your skin, all of it.” he smiled and I there was a claw pressed against my cheek, and I leaned into it.
“Of course, inamorata. Anything to be closer to you.” I smiled and off they went, soaking wet and back up on the bank. It did feel odd his tail against my bare legs and curling around by lower half like a hungry snake on its prey.
“That better, Schatz?” he kissed me again and I shivered.
“Of course, my muse. I’ll have to write about you again then.” his ears perked up. “A whole novel I think, it’ll be scandalous. I’ll release it under a a pseudonym, nobody would know.” he giggled at the thought, “You wouldn’t.”
“Oh, I would. I would write you down so you could live forever, I would feel your pulse in the pages, and I’d be buried with a copy of it, so you’d be there with me.” I went to kiss him again, and I swear I heard him purr.
“I’d call myself Wagner.” I chuckled.
“Coming from a fish with a human name.” he batted at me slightly, still laughing. I trailed my kisses down farther, leaving a smattering of them on his gills and feeling him shiver and writhe and hearing him whimper.
“Kurt?” I pulled off quickly. His face was flushed purple,e his hears pressed backwards. “Are you alright, treasure?”
“Keep doing that, feels nice.” his voice was breathless. “I thought it hurt.” I said back.
He smiled at me, “Not when you do it.”
So I did, trailing kisses on his gills, he held me closer, forcing my head into the crook of his neck, and my fingers worked on the ones at his sides. There was little broken moans of my name and scattered German.
His hands go to trail so lightly down my back, the claw not even breaking the skin that its touching, just touching and making me arch into it.
“I’ll bloody marry you, if you want me to, I wouldn’t hesitate.” I snickered against his neck.
“The ceremony would be awful. Water everywhere, Betsy would arrange the entire thing, I’m sure.”
“Who else?” I laugh back
“So I’d be Worthington, then?”
“Kurt Wagner.” I corrected him, he collapsed into giggles until I went back to teasing at his gills. He’s beautiful, I let my fingers trace along the grooves of his markings, feel his laughs and his whispers and moans,
“I like it.” he says breathlessly.
I look up again, his eyes - golden and shimmering and about a week away from pulling me into my grave with their wonder. All the love I can give to him, I will. All the kisses I can give to him, I won’t hesitate to give and all the poetry I can write about him, my wrists will surely be broken by next week.
“I like it too.” I smile.
I kiss him again and by god, I am a fool.