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Let the Only Sound be the Overflow

Chapter Text

April 2nd, 1906

Winter in Mooringen had been set into its inhabitants bones so as if you were to take it out of them they’d drop dead on the spot. I’d come early, waiting for the river to thaw out and the water lens to form the green carpeting over the water. Now that spring was somewhat here, they still lumbered round in their big coats and even bigger boots, thundering the defrosting ground beneath them under each leather-laden step. It was a bit odd, though, now that the world was beginning to come alive around them, they seemed nearly vexed with it.

I couldn’t really consider it “wintering” here, more like I’d left Canonbury and willed myself away to Germany and in a week passed into the tired little hamlet as if I’d been here my whole life. Father never really gave me official consent to leave, but he and his blood money seemed truly amorous the day before I went, and so I never said a thing.

The Lahn River is quiet in these frigid days of spring. The chunks of ice flow down in dismal heaps, and I’m told in the summer - it rushes and pounds like a charging animal. But now, it is calm and almost lazy - and I thank it for such consideration because now I can observe.

What microorganisms can be observed so early is astounding, creatures with Armadillididae-semblances float by (or is it crawl? they have too many legs to classify such a thing as merely floating). The fish are not yet full-size, but whenever I’m to stick a bare finger into the waters, they frenzy around it - not biting, simply surrounding. Curious as I am, and silver as a coin.

Myra, my hostess, gracious and nice of face - claims she worries that I am to captivated by the water, and I only laugh - saying that those with unconventional and odd beauty are those that hold a vice grip on the hearts of men.

So I go on, writing and talking and being a fool.

April 5th, 1906

I have not yet received a telegram from Father.

I wasn’t expecting one, but it i suppose I miss his unnerving cordiality when in the face of blatant disrespect. I try not to mind myself too much with thoughts of him - though I must give him credit for his paying for my University, no matter how much more insufferable he’s been since then. Marine Biology, he said, Stuff and nonsense, there’s fish and there’s water, that all you need to know.

Well, yes there was fish and water, it was hard to find one without the other in such a setting, but if I could - publish these works, find something interesting in the sleepy little river, I’d leave him and his blood money and Canonbury. Probably even settle in Madrid, though even in this time of year its’ scorching.

The last time I found myself in his study was the day before my graduation last spring. It wasn’t the first time I realized how many books he’d kept in there, but it was the first time I thought that maybe he’d never read a single one of them and I always ended up choking with laughter.

My observations have been steady, pods upon pods of new fish - some simply passing through and some larger ones out hunting. The wildlife isn’t awfully diverse, in fact - it seems as if all the animals are familiar with one another. They’ve known each other for so many years that if half a pod of fish is to be gobbled up by a larger one, the remaining smaller ones don’t even bat an eye. It’s like knowing of a particularly odd family’s antics for so long that they stop becoming antics, and more so just who are they are.

Nature has an odd way of repeating itself on different faces, but it makes for good comparison.

The days get longer, but Myna continues to worry me, stating that when she is to leave for her cousin’s wedding in a couple of weeks, who will there be to dote on me and make sure I remember to eat? I tell her she is too kind, and if she is to have future children, they will be the most spoiled moppets this side of the Channel.

She laughs and laughs and her eyes crinkle, and yes - she would definitely make a good mother.

April 11th, 1906

I haven’t been to the River in days.

There was a massive bout of sleet the day following my last writing, and it stubbornly continued for nearly two days. I returned to the river the day after the storm, to check and make sure that any of the families of fish or frog or little water beetles hadn’t perished amidst the brutish storm. The Lahn was covered in a thin, transparent sheet of ice that broke apart once touched and I made myself a decent sized hole in it to watch the chilly water.

There were few floating ‘creatures’ which were only dead leaves upon further inspection, no tadpoles, no large pods of fish - nothing.

Then there was a mass of black that darted by, greater than all the creatures I’d seen in the river before.

I jumped back, refusing to let out a scream because Dear Lord, what was that? It swam quickly, as the water parted for it, leaving a trail of melted ice in it’s wake as it rounded a corner and turned back towards the opposite bank.

I tried to convince myself it was simply a fish, but the way it moved was odd, quick, yes - but somehow odd in comparison to that of the other creatures.

There was silence from the opposite bank, and I squinted to get a better look.

A tiny splash, and more ripples, it was turning around again, swimming faster than the first time. I eased away from bank, watching as quick ripples and tiny splashes began to form in its wake until it was next to my side of the bank, but several yards away from me.

The quiet was shattered as there was a great tumult under the water, splashing and the hint of a tail just barely surfacing before darting back down.

Then the spot went from pale blue to vibrant vermillion and the struggle stopped.

So, I ran, how typically human.

Now going back to said River brings me both intrigue and unrelenting anxiety as to what the hell I saw.

Chapter Text

April 15th, 1906

 I haven’t gotten much recording done the last few days. No more fish, no more tadpoles (no matter how beguiling they are) because like a slow dragonfly when put against a monstrous toad, I have been consumed.

 The mass that appeared to me on Thursday has thus returned, and now instead of swimming from my side of the back to the opposite and back around, it waits. Now that the ice is melted and the water is open, I can see the Creature move through the glassy surface. Whenever I approach the bank, it pauses in its tracks as if it is a children’s doll caught walking on its own - and it sits.

 And I sit with it.

 The current of the river is not yet strong enough to move it,and it anchors itself in the part of the river only about  a hundred-twenty centimeters deep and despite the stray ice chunks that float gently down - it doesn’t move unless to chase another figure in the water, which usually ends in red appearing over where it has stationed itself;  but otherwise it sits, stubbornly and with intent.

I wanted to tell myself anything to make sure what I was seeing was purely the water drawing me in too deep, and now that it knows I am so easily thrown to it - it wishes to drive me mad. Nature is cruel in that way.

 It is Sunday now, and most of Mooringen is relaxing - after Mass, the hamlet seems to be coated in thick serenity and stillness. I haven’t seen Myra all day, as she was up and dressed before I even woke. But by late morning I found myself here.

 I’ve sketched create a few times, now it’s long, about six feet. But sleek, the movement shows the body is specially streamlined.

 From afar, it looks entirely fish, but when it is closer to my side of the bank, the shoe becomes a bit harder to discern, oddly. The form becomes less entirely fish, mostly the anterior end. Almost ape-like, but apes don’t swim.

 I think I was on my fifth sketch late yesterday afternoon, diagraming and guessing, not daring it go closer to tihs creature that had practically posed itself for me. Some ape-like fish, they would ever believe it, and I’d be surely put into the asylum for giving the publishing house anything more than frogs and riverbed crawlers. 

 But it was on that fifth sketch that I noticed my coloring was entirely off. The sun hit the water (the creature was a bit closer that afternoon)  and in turn the black, inky creature wasn’t black at all.

 It was a decadent shade of sapphire.

 

April 16th, 1906

 It took a few words to get it to surface.

 I goaded it a little, saying something along the lines of - “If I am to believe you exist and aren’t some fragment of a dream that I’ve yet to wake from, tell me, Fluss Versucher.”. Myra tells me my German is awful, and I tell her that her English is horrendous.

 I don’t expect a response from the Creature, and a few minutes go by before I start to believe that it is dead. For nearly I week I have come to sit out and watch the river, calm myself from this vision, and it returns to slither into the riverbed and kill and watch me.

 But this is the first time I’ve actually seen its eyes. 

Against the sapphire skin they’re a pristine contrast. Yellow and bold as a canary at midnight, and the face accented with light blue markings, all different and odd but enticing - nearly like someone had painstakingly carved them out onto his skin. Teeth sharp, obviously, and with a slightly protruding overbite that made it so just a few them never went in his mouth even if he were to close it. His hair is the only thing black, and it’s pressed flat against his head and sopping.

 Then he smiled and my words left me. 

 “Your write too much,”, his words carried a heavy accent. “And too fast, is someone trying to steal the book from you?”, he gestured his head to the records book near my leg.

 I exhaled shakily, it was an ape, at least somewhat, as he head was the only thing visible. I looked up, quickly, thanking whomever was listening for keeping me away from Bedlam and confirming that the Creature was real, was breathing and blue, and by gods, it could talk.

 “Not at all, no -”, my words are clumsy and stumble into the empty air between us. “You’re, not entirely a fish, I presume?”, the Creature smiles wider and it’s ears, elongated but with the arch holding a web like that of a duck’s feet. 

 “Not entirely, no?”, he says, as if he’s as unsure of it as I am. “Mostly, but not really? I’m not sure.”

 We can’t be equally confused. “Can you..can you come out?”

 He considers me for a moment, as if he has somewhere important to attend and the time spent with me must be curt. But he turn, edges closer to the bank until he pulls himself up from the water - straining only slightly.

 “Sorry, sorry - I haven’t come up on the banks since sometime last autumn. I’ve very sorry.”

  I don’t hear him. His body is the same blue as if face, more markings, each different to the other - long slits slash through the sides of his ned and open and close slowly and rhythmically. His scales glisten, as there’s a smattering of them most everywhere, especially towards the bottom of his torso, leading down to a long, midnight blue tail that aways gently in the shallows. 

 He’s an ethereal beauty, though the claws and the teeth bellow ‘predator’ and ‘carnivora’ at me - I bypass them foolishly.  

 He notices my stare, because I don’t understand. Can barely fathom what I’m looking at, if I’m looking at anything at all. 

 “Are you going to keep writing?”, he asks - the side of his mouth curls and there’s fangs looking back at me.

 The Creature is utterly rendering, mystifying and whenever i tried to write my eyes would catch on him for too long and he would tell me to keep writing. He could very well be hungry, but he is languid as he lays back on the grass and gives a shuddery sigh as the sun hits him.

 “I’m sorry, too. I haven’t been able to see much but fish and frogs in there - but now you, I’m taken aback.”. The Creature laughs a little, flat stomach just barely rolling.

 “Fine. Fine. Is all fine.”, he waves me off, “There isn’t many times I come upstream because I’m looking for the Lorenzes.”. My brows furrow, “Who are the Lorenzes?”

 “Family of frogs, they has little tadpoles now, and I wanted to check on them after the storm, then I saw you and the others don’t come down to this part of the river often, it’s the most rough in the summer. They go farther upstream.”. The others - the humans. “I’m only passing through, I’ll be gone before it gets rough.”

 His ears fall slightly, but then he looks down at the record book again, I’m smiling. “What else do you write?”. “Essays, mostly. Disprovals, only - I’ve never been able to disprove anyone based on field research, mostly things I’ve read.”

 The Creature didn’t seem satisfied with my answer, “Write me a poem, tomorrow - show it to me.” his eyes are still cast down, and I know he sees the sketches.’

 His clawed finger - he has only three - points to one, the most recent one where he was closest to the bank. “I looked like this?”

 “I couldn’t see your face.” I shrugged I little embarrassed, glancing between the sketch and the life it imitates - it’s almost insulting. He nods, understanding, and glances back towards the river.

 “Tomorrow, a poem. You write too much to never write poems.”, he grins, and with a flip of a tail and a splash he’s gone.

 I rush back to Myra’s cottage, and i become Virgil’s poetically-repressed brother.

 

April 17th, 1906

  “It is a curious thing - we are

 to live on this old rock.

Yet when we came here we were newborn pups,

blind.

 

In our sanctimonious cities (with choking air and lifted upon cold stone and crumbling brick)

 Filled with the foolish and wretched

 What are we really?

 

Any better than the apes we so closely hold semblance to?

 Or of birds hidden in the low-clouds

 Or of a starving orphan, whose cries are like a mighty symphony

Why are we so queer, so curious?

 

In comparison to those that lurk in murky depths

 and crawl in the silence of night, 

why are we so 

odd?”

 

I read it out loud to the Creature, he listened raptly as he gnawed on what i could only assume was what remained of an unfortunate water snake - tried to ignore the blood and the tearing of flesh as I read, but his expression was wide-eyed and greatly intrigued. 

When I was finished I told him I wasn’t born to be a poet. Poets see with different eyes - and see the world as a mass of intricately crafted yet jumbled words and stories. It is simply their job to put them in order.

 The Creature shakes his head and takes the book from me, ghosting his fingers  over the ink. “Humans, you’re talking about humans?”. I nod and he grins wide again, the webs in his ears fluttering. 

 “You are one, or is it? ‘Not entirely’?” he mimics my accent and I laugh.  It’s familiar to me now, his accent what with living in the village - but from him, it’s like a twinge that makes me adore to hear him talk.

 “Sometimes I wonder, it’s not like you where I can see you’re not entirely fish. But sometimes I feel as if I’m simply looking in from the outside, if that makes any sense.” 

 The Creature pauses and nods, and hands me my book back. It’s overcast and I must suffer without seeing the sunlight reflect off his skin. “You’ve never seen anything like me before, have you?”

 “I’ve never dreamed of creatures like you, much less finding one.”

 He brushes some hair away from from his eyes and looks back out over the river. “You’ve  seen the humans, yes?”

 “From far away, yes, but unlike you I don’t act like they’re not real”, his tone isn’t angry - its playful, and I smirk. 

 “Well it’s not every day a fairy tale comes to life and casually asks me to write it poetry.”

 The Creature chuckles, low and rumbling. “ ‘It’ is Kurt, and as much as you wish I were a princess or that I would grant you wishes, I just want to stay here - and watch you question everything, poet.”

 Kurt. It’s name is Kurt. How odd.

 “You’ll drive me mad, you will,”, I shake my head and avoid his eyes, “Warren Worthington.”

 Kurt gives a short nod and his eyes scan over my face as if he’s lost something. “Why id you come to this place - Varren?”, I nearly shudder.

 “I want to publish what I’ve found here, maybe disprove some the men down at the University whose hypothesis are about as reliable as a fortune teller’s word.”, I shake my head, “If what I find here and elsewhere becomes successful, I plan to have to published - and possibly get me enough to leave me father’s house. But, it’s all very sorted now.”, I shrug, tossing a pebble into the river.

 He doesn’t react, as if he hasn’t heard me and I look back into those yellow eyes. “For money?”, he asks bluntly. I hesitate before agreeing with him. I sound awful.

 His goes silent, and I feel almost awful confessing to him. I don’t want to tell him of father, but I hope the tone of my voice acts to tell of they urgency of the situation. I sigh and lay back not he grass as I’d seen him do the day before, it picks  at the nape of my neck but I don’t mind. “I want to prove to him that I’m more than his son - that I can be Warren and not “The Warrington Boy”. It’s a mess, Kurt. It’s a mess.”. I rub at my temples and Kurt lays down beside me.

 Up close, his face is even more striking, and his hair just barely falls over his one eye. “Prove it to the world, Varren. Not just your Father, you write about frogs or fish or me or people, it is all the same - it is all a mess in it’s own way. But I feel was if you can clean it, make it your own.”, hi tone is soft and kind and  I smile over at him, big and stupid like.

 “Thank you, Kurt.”

 He smiles back, showing teeth and I laugh. “Mind you don’t bite me, I’ve been told by many I taste like doubt and despair.”

 Kurt rolls his eyes and tugs at a few strands of new grass, turning them over in his claws.

 I watch his face staring hard at what he’s gotten before he looks back towards me. “I always love these little things, they’re so..”, his voice trails off, fascinated and I’m grinning again.

  I write him another poem before our time that afternoon is over, about grass and rivers and birds and fish and his blue skin is nearly purple by the time I finish.

 He bids me leave before leaping back into the water, and I’m not sure how long I stared at the ripples he’d left behind before I went back to the Village. 

 

April 16th, 1906

 

 Kurt is an absolute dream.

 He has the bubbly charm of a girl fresh into her first season and the snapping wit that keeps his words ringing around in my head for hours. He doesn’t mention there being any other creatures like him, and I’m afraid to ask. But Kurt seems to know well of humans, probably after observing them from afar or luring them with a siren song - but if anything, he’s fascinated by my lack of gills and fins especially.

 Yet I’m irrevocably drawn to his.

 “You’re still drawing me? Aren’t you tired of it?”, I shake my head no, this was all this morning before the showers began to set in and Kurt had to disappear into the water and I back into the village.

 “No. I’m always noticing something odd about you, something new - and I have to force myself to remember it lest it altogether adds away.”. Kurt traces a finger around his gills and the pink slits flutter in reflex. They make a noise as they do, like a clicking tongue and I giggle. 

“There’s something odd about you too, Varren.”, his voice isn’t clearly as defensive as I’m sure it supposed to sound. “You write and you walk and your face is like someone ten years younger.”

 I huff a laugh, “But there’s nothing new about me, not much changes - I get old , I suffer I die. You get to swim around and chase tadpoles.”, he laughs and I admire the sound again. 

 “We are both odd, Varren?”, he asks, golden eye locking with mine.

 “Very, Kurt. Odd as we can damn well be.”

 There’s another laugh and the rain begins to fall.

Chapter Text

April 23rd, 1906

Some showers kept me away from Kurt yesterday, but now they aren’t ice and sleet like before, but  they were steady and hard enough to keep me well away from the river. If it had a habit of flooding, I wouldn’t be fool enough to journey down there. I’d kept about him the past few days, we talked, I drew and wrote and he remained as curious as I did.

 He asked about London, and my answers were curt (look at me, looking for a reason to write his name). But he’s fascinated by me as I am with him, and the company we keep is better than any I’ve kept in London. 

 While rained in with Myra I didn’t tell her of what I’d found at the river - or rather whom. I didn’t tell her about the shimmering blue skin or the jet black hair or the seemingly endless tail. She’d put me out, believe me to be possessed or mad - and I lied to her easily, saying that I had discovered much in the ways of a few new species of salamander that liked to nap in the rocks by the water and whatever water snakes happened by me (new in the sense that I’d never seen them back in London).

 When she noticed the odd drawings of the creature kept since my encounter on Sunday - Kurt, I simply told her my mind had wandered while down at the river, and she passed it off, stirring her tea with intent.

But today, I returned to my secret.

 It took a few minutes for him to come join me on our little hideaway in the river bank, the previous day’s rain had caused a fog to hang over the village, and the other side of the bank was just barely visible. There was a splash that had me grinning, and finally clawed, dark blue fingers groping about on land until they found purchase in the wet grass. There was a heave and I saw his form flop as gracefully onto dry land as he could, breathing heavily.

“Kurt, you’re late.” my tone was chiding, he laughed, his voice a bit muffled as he was still face-down on the grass .

“I got hungry on the way, but there as an otter who was nice enough to feed me.”

I grimaced only slightly, but Kurt was technically a predator (I would rather use the term loosely) to begin with. His face tilts up and his eyes aren’t the vivid gold I remember them in, instead crimson.

I’m silent, but not as shocked as I could be. My words failing me mainly due to my lack of experience in the situation, but Kurt - coy and serene - prods me.

“Does it bother you?’, he asks I shake my head. “Your eyes change, sensitivity to light perhaps?”I try to skip the subject that Kurt is now what I should classify as dangerous and possibly still hungry . But he answers me, “Helps with seeing under the water, like a -” he looks for the words “Third eyelid? The color of it changes the color of my eyes.”

Reptilian, very clever. He’s picking at the remains of the water snake with one of his claws, his tail his still dangling into the water and swaging gently.

“You humans are worse, your all soft, no scales nothing to protect you..”, he chuckles and I smirk, “Of course we’re soft, but we can survive on dry land, can’t we?”. He rolls his eyes  and looks down at his tail.

 “I never wished for legs, you know.”, he murmurs as if its supposed to wound me, I play into it. “I wished for fins, once.”

“What happened?”

“I grew up.”

Kurt’s laugh is light and lilting “Very sorry, Varren.” he disappears into the water with a mischievous smile, and then I see his half submerged face, only the eyes and upwards. He’s still smiling as he edges ever closer and I pull my feet up slightly from their place in the water, and then I feel his hands.

They wrap around my ankles without pain nor much effort, and there’s little time to react before the frigid darkness engulfs me.

I struggle, like humans do when in the face of mystifying devourers, but Kurt holds me steady to him, and I close my eyes, bracing for it. I call myself a fool, a  damned fool for believing the creature would ever be benevolent. And I hope that Kurt will feast on my flesh and remember how I looked upon him with such awe.

I wait and wait.

Nothing and nothing.

There’s a  silence, nothing but the warbling gurgle of water in my ears and then the feeling of something pressed against each of my eyelids before I open them hesitantly.

There is Kurt and his eyes are that murderous red and there’s the rows of teeth waiting to swallow me whole all grinning back at me. The markings of his skin almost shimmer and his tail, Lord - is tail curling just barely around my back and the tip of his fin just grazing that nape of my neck.

This is where I fully see him.

He is at home and he is dangerous and he grins like the devil and his eyes are pure hell.

He is a nightmare wrapped in scales and yet I forget I need to breathe when I see him like this, there’s a hand holding me in place and I’m nearly trembling with the gentle current.

I pull myself up as I hear my heartbeat growing slower in my ears.

Back on land I’m gasping, but Kurt just eases his way to the bank as if I didn’t just  fear for my life in one second and thank God I was living in the next, he’s laughing at my wonder and I’m laughing because I don’t know what else to do.

“You, you’re just, under there, it’s just - “

“Inhuman? Unnatural? Terrifying?”, he seems almost put off, now, and I’m still rambling like an overexcited child.

“Yes, yes and no. Terrifying to those who don’t find you positively enchanting.  What I saw under there and what I see now is like two different people. Almost like you;re..” I tumble for words “Half-human?” my heart is pounding, half from oxygen deprivation, and half because I may have just seen the eyes of God through crimson and scales.

I don’t notice Kurt’s smile disappear, but instead I see the slight grimace at my words. I look back at him, wiping off my face. “Well, half-human in the sense that you look less predatory up here than you under there, but you’re where you belong, in your natural habitat. You’re at home.”

I still don’t see him smile but he now looks down at the water almost wistfully, ignoring my gaze. “What about you, in your home?”

I shake my head, my home is a mess - my home doesn’t matter. His home, where is - what he is, it’s made of the same gold as his eyes. I would write about it, about what I saw underneath that current.

 “I don’t mean predatory in the sense of vicious, Kurt.”

 “That’s what predatory means.”

 “Predatory in the sense that if you were to have pulled me under and murdered me just now, I would have accepted it.”

 He is silent and so am I. I don’t mean to hurt him but God, describing him is all but exhausting as there aren’t nearly enough words.

We talk the whole afternoon, and Kurt will sometimes go in for a quick swim and I’m so lost in thought sometimes I don’t even hear his words but sI see him, and the two faces I’ve witness are starting to flitter interchangeably.

When I asked him what touched my eyelids, be it a stray fish or simply the current - he shakes his head and looks back over the waters with a mumbled reply.

“Your fingers, couldn’t have been anything else.”

I don’t remember rubbing at my eyes, and the feeling was soft, plush - almost like lips.

But I’m still tumbling around with the thoughts.

It’s late now, nearly two London time and I decide what I must do. That creature, that Kurt - I have to write about him, show him to the world, dress him in pearls and shells and African rubies. He has to come home with me.

April 23rd, 1906

Kurt was hesitant, I could tell.

I tried to explain to him that I needed him, his ethereal beauty - and his feral essence, I would bring him back in due time, but in order to actually run any full examination of him that would prove valid to anyone wishing to publish us, I would need the breathing sample. 

 Just for them to see him, see him as I did in glory and purest form, that was it.

 “Is there somewhere I could swim?”

 “It’s London, there’s an entire river that runs through it.”, his face lit up at my words and his grin was that of excitement. I said the examinations wouldn’t be invasive or remotely painful, I said I wanted them to know us - me and him as masterpieces in their own sense. Me with my findings and him with his simply being Kurt.

 He beamed at my words and I held him close on our bank. I’ve taken note that whenever he flushes, his face becomes almost plum-colored. 

 “Yes,” was his word, “Yes, to London.”

 Tomorrow Myra’s uncle is taking me into the nearby town of Surhausen, I will need a tank made.

 

April 30th, 1906

 I asked for a tank. A bloody tank.

They gave me a glass coffin. I suppose it was my words getting lost in translation, ‘I need to fit about six and a half feet, yes?’, they nodded, and I returned back to Mooringen with the bloody death box to show Kurt.

 He laughed - hard, so hard that he had to submerge himself a few times to keep himself from completely drying his gills. It was roomy, save for his tail fin which flipped upwards, and after filling the tank-coffin myself with him in it I  saw those red eyes staring at the glass casing and taping on it, even if I had to gently chid him into not doing so lest his claws crack it. It was deep enough for him to at least float comfortably but not wide enough for full swimming, he was a bit disappointed but given our lack of time - we couldn’t complain much.

 The ship was leaving on Wednesday, and by the time I had dragged the now coffin back to Myra’s house, the Monday afternoon was setting.

 I must go now, I have to pack. 

 

May 2nd, 1906

Yesterday was my last day in Mooringen and I spent it with Kurt. I took some of the meat I’d brought from the butcher that Kurt eagerly took, and he tore into it voraciously and the blood that was still left over after never once prompted me to tell him to wipe it. I simply sipped my wine and continued talking to him - trying to ignore that the following evening we would be leaving the harbor and Kurt - his home.

 I told him London was big, it was crowded and anything you wanted you could have. I tried to make it sound like some place as mystifying as he was - but like we both remember - I’m not poet and my words are about as clumsy as they are verbose. 

 “It sounds awful and amazing.”

 “It’s more of the former.” we both laughed. 

  We took the train north last night in order to make it to port in the morning, Kurt was to say the least - uncomfortable, sloshing around in his tank of Lahn water in our private little car that I’d managed to bribe one of the working boys into giving us. Saying I was a foreign dignitary with my prized pet who positively needed to make it back to London in time for a ball. (my accent had been polished from staying here, and it was convincing a enough)

If not, at least I looked rich enough to pass as a dignitary. 

Presently, it’s nightfall, and the ship is passing just over the Netherlands, the room is large and Kurt’s tank-coffin in next to the balcony and he hasn’t stopped looking out at the sea and I’m not sure if he’s upset about me referencing him as ‘my pet’ back on the train.

  But the sea is a source of wonder for him and he gazes out without stopping, and if I am to talk, he only half-listens. There’s the human side of him, soft and wide eyed and hungry for the world around him.

 I don’t know which enraptures me more.

Chapter Text

May 7th, 1906

 My father prides himself on his business, and I often hear him say in the defense of the dreaded stuff that: “I make a dishonest living, yes, but I make it honestly.”. How my father has grown so rich has been a matter of life insurance.   Those who realize their time is quickly coming or those just mindful of the future come to him seeking guidance. He gives to them generously for the remainder of their days, the only line being that when they are to pass, their saved money is to be taken out of their will and left to him in order to pay their debts.

 Of course, no one with sound mind and good hearts would agree to this. But my Father has a habit of lying whilst telling the truth, i watched him do it a woman and her daughter when I was eight. The woman most nearly blind and the daughter overseeing everything for her. Apparently, the girl was to attend a high-end finishing school in Paris, and my father was all too eager to help. He gave the woman the money to pay and I’m assuming the daughter found herself in Paris that following fall. But when the woman died and the girl was cut off from the funds, she returned to London with a vengeance.

 My father said that her mother owed him nearly double of what was originally given due to her “early departure” and the money would have to be taken out of the woman’s insurance and will. He had a echelon of lawyers against her and she left in tears, penniless.

 I’ve watched this happen to countless others for nearly twenty four years. Desperation, greed, illness, children, love or whatever brings them here - my father is generous, he gives and gives and brutally rips away when they are put into the cold, dark earth.

 And to bring Kurt to this place is enough for me feel sick. 

 We landed in the Royal Victoria docks this morning, and Kurt blanched (or-rather, his skin simply turned a slightly lighter shade of blue). Our tiny cabin was already getting a bit small for him, and he’d even asked me once or twice if he could jump out into the sea and swim alongside the boat, but I felt awful once I denied him. 

 Now, looking at London it’s smoggy and loud and the smell of the docks is nearly nauseating. “If you’re going to vomit, please don’t do it in the tank.” we both looked out, worried and uncertain - but neither of us saying a word.

 The ride from the docks was rough and with Kurt bumping about in the back of the carriage I was thankful when we were home. There was only a blanket covering up his glass coffin so onlookers wouldn’t see my treasure before he was ready. 

 Canonbury is one of the smaller neighborhoods in Northern London, only at the cross of four major streets that encompass it, and our house is at its northern borders. The house is tall, white and with several window boxes full of sweetbriers that waft their scents from upstairs. ‘W.W.’ hangs in wrought iron at the threshold and the afternoon is steadily thrumming.

 In retrospect, I find myself a bit irritated at returning.

 I take Kurt up myself with the help of one of the scullery girls, Betsy- whom father hired two years ago whilst I was away at College and I tell her we never formally met - we just happened upon each other. Very fortunately, we just happened upon each other with her icy blue eyes laced with mischief, and we just happened to get along.

 We take him to the washroom adjoined to my own room, and when Betsy scurries out with a curtsey, I lift the dingy blanket.

 His eyes squeeze shut at the lights around him, electric and unnatural and he looks around at the tiled place surrounding him. “Here? What is this? Why didn’t you tell me you were taking me here?”, he speaks quickly as if in a panic. I’m already moving to fill up the tub with fresh water.

 “Well, I said home - this is home. For me at least, apologies for the atrocious ride over, but we had to move quickly.”. He sits silent, his class coffin having been placed on the floor and he looks up at me.

 “It’s small.” Kurt says finally, sighing.

 “I understand.” I say, but offering little comfort as he looks almost hurt, even if my tone wasn’t meant to be hurtful. He gazes around the bathroom, he was taken from wide open water and point in a tiny stone cell like some criminal. I bite my lip and say nothing, and he’s resorted to picking absentmindedly at some of scales on his forearm. 

 Once the tub is filled I turn back to him and roll up my sleeves, grinning. “How much do you weigh?” I ask, hoping to bring some gleam back to those eyes. His eyebrows furrow in confusion before I reach into the coffin and hoist him into my arms. He’s not light, but it’s not an awful strain on my back.

 He yelps, more out of surprise than fear and begins squirming and pushing, wetting both me and the floor. I laugh, trying to shush him to no avail and finally tossing him into the tub in a manner most indecent.

 There’s bubbles and struggling for a moment before Kurt reemerges - he’s flustered and gasping and looking at me as if I’d sprouted gills but I’m just a bit worried. The tub is about a foot shorter than he is, and his tail is left to dangle absurdly from the bottom end. He tries to lean back, earning a groan as the porcelain slides against his skin and hisses.

 “Is the water too hot? Are you fine?”

 “Yes, but - this thing, the way it presses against the scales on my back. I’m not sure.”

 “Turn on your stomach, you haven’t that many scales there.”

 He blows hair out of his face, already looking exasperated. The water sloshes violently as he tries to move, it’s a bit wider than his coffin-tank and he does it with ease, but one he’s turned to face me he’s glaring.

 “You promised me a river, Varren. This isn’t a river.”

 “I did, but in time. It’s just until I’ve managed to conduct a bit more testing. I think I’ll get to it tomorrow once we’re both rested.”, his gills take in a sharp breath (is it still considered breath if he’s taking in water?) and he gazes downwards.

 “Please, Kurt, it’s only a little while, a few days at most. I’ll change your water, I’ll feed you. it’ll be like Germany only -”, search for a  word, “A bit more cramped?” Kurt doesn’t smile at this, and his tail droops. 

Kurt.” I plead again.

 He turns to me, and back to the too-small tub. He wants to leap out to swim freely and catch water snakes and sunbathe in the grass, and he can’t.

 Kurt speaks, finally. “I had to deal with the river freezing over for years. But - I think I should be alright, this is - this is nothing.” I see small smile grace his face and a I gingerly reach out to drag some of his hair back towards his pointed ear.

 The Islington Delicatessen is a half hours’ walk, and since I plan to be back home before dark I walk quickly. Coming back with several pounds of raw meat and Betsy looks at me from her spot in the scullery.

 “Those all for you?” even if she’s nearing twelve, there’s a twinge of Scotland still etched into her voice. I shake my head, “More or less.” I smile and wink towards her, and she raises her brows. 

 “Mr. Worthington was hoping you drowned.” I’m not surprised. “Mr. Worthington should’ve just killed me himself when he was in his strength.” I snicker. Betsy grins and her eyes light up like a street lamp at dusk. “Boil him alive, yeah? Give him a good roasting.” I laugh, she tries to be respectful when he’s around, but with me she’s still a child. “Pull out the hairs from his ears and bash his head in.” I retort and she nearly falls from her stool. I tip my hat towards her and she waves me off.

 I love that moppet.

 When I return to Kurt he’s sleeping, his gills rhythmically opening and closing and I drop the meat unto the floor, letting the paper bag smacking against the tile resound and jolt him awake.

 He looks to the bag and in seconds is lost in his food or raw pork and chopped lamb. “I’ll be in the next room, alright?”, if he nods I can’t see it.

 When he’s done eating I go to get the bag and clean up the mess he’s made just a bit, and he’s looking out at London from the window. No one until I get up to leave. 

 “Light on?”, I ask and he shakes his head, the light goes off and his body seems to fade into the silhouettes of the room until the sun disappears and he becomes darkness.

 When father comes home I shut my door and I found myself scribbling poem upon poem. None of them good, but maybe something to keep Kurt from sulking too much.

May 8th, 1906

 “Look alive, my treasure. I went back to the delicatessen, I hear their son is being accused of having a mistress out in Clarkenwell. That’s all the ladies were clucking about this morning.” Kurt is still sleeping upon my return back, but his eyes open lazily and he gives me a sweet smile.

 “Scandalous.” he says, mocking my accent again and I laugh - setting another bag of raw beef  beside his tub.

 “Sleep well?” he ask, throwing my coat unto the bed. “Well enough, though the sound pencil scratching against paper is going to drive me half mad by the end of the week.” he doesn’t mean to be hurtful and he isn’t, I carry a chair in besides the tub and I sit down next to him, coffee in hand and hair a mess.

  The mid-morning sky is bleak but the air that comes throw the windows is comfortable, there’s several sweetbriars floating around the tub and my eyebrows arch.

 “Do you like them?” I ask. “It’s an odd flower to keep around, not because its harmful. Just out of place here, I think.”, I try not to think of the undeniable parallel he’s drawing to himself, and instead only hum in acknowledgement. 

 By late morning Kurt is fed, and though I’m still working to prepare the first test I have Betsy bring books, two of them - to me. Nothing boring, I tell her, pick the one’s you’d read. I’ve given her some over the years, ones I had when I was younger and one’s I bought especially for her. 

  She returns with two - A Little Princess and Doom of the Griffiths and I’m a bit shocked with the latter. “It’s different,” she tells me, “You never told me bring two of the same.” In fact I never told her I was giving them to Kurt in the first place, but I thanked her nonetheless. 

 Kurt’s face changes to that of bashfulness at the unexpected “gifts” and he readily accepts the two books. I point to A Little Princess “That one is brand new - got it for Betsy just before I left, darling must’ve read it twice while I was gone.”

 “Thank you, Varren!” he beams, “Thank you - danke.” he pulls me into a soaking wet hug and is babbling in English and German and I laugh. “It’s no trouble, Kurt. Mind your claws!”

 When he lets me go, I get up and he readily opens A Little Princess before I go back into my room to retrieve the syringe.

 Well, I didn’t bring him back just to stare at him.

 “Kurt, darling, you’ve been injured before - yes? I’m sure the river hasn’t been so generous to you sometimes?” Kurt doesn’t seem to hear and I walk back into the bathroom, holding the syringe and pulling a towel from the wall behind me. 

 “I guess? It’s possible not to get hurt.” he shrugs, then turning back to his book , don’t sit next to him. “Now, Kurt - I’m going to do something, it’s just a simple test - I need to see your blood.”, his face now utter confusion. 

 Kurt blinks, “Do  you , do you want me to bite myself?” I hold back a chuckle. “No, no biting, just going to prick you just a bit draw a bit of blood to analyze. The sooner we get this done the better, besides, you’re not hungry again are you?”

 Kurt recoils to one side of the tub. “My - blood? Varren, you can’t take my blood.”. I sigh and sit besides him and take one of his hands into both of mine, setting the syringe besides me. “It’ll only hurt just a second, but you - I told you I needed you, I promise this will be the most painful of all the examinations, and I’m only saying that because this is the only one were I have to put anything inside of you if.” 

 It came out worse than I intended, but Kurt doesn’t seem to catch onto the second meaning. i look in his eyes for any sort of agreement, and he glances behind my back, notching the syringe again.

 “It won’t hurt?” 

“You can hold my hand if it does.”, his ears drop just the slightest, and his tail is curling on itself.

 I hold out his arm, straight, luckily there’s no hardened scales at the vein there, just his sapphire skin.

 “Varren.”, he says again, almost like a warning as I roll up my sleeves and rinse off the syringe in hot water before coming back to him. 

 “Varren, please.” I hush him, squeezing his other hand into a fist before gently pressing the needles tip into his arm. His face contorts as the tip disappears inside of him, but he doesn’t look away. “Is that it?”. 

 “Not yet, if it helps, you can look away.” he nods and closes his eyes, muttering sharply in German to what I can only think of as being a prayer.

 I pull the end black and the blood fills it, his arm trembles and I squeeze his hand again. “It’s fine, you’re doing well Kurt - you’re almost done.” I hold the syringe there for a few moments more before gently removing it and i see Kurt release a shuddery breath. 

 “Finished, now.” I say, taking the wet towel and wiping off the blood let from the pinprick spot of his arm and place it back in the water. 

 “Can you - never do that again, please?” he asked, and I shake my head. “Don’t see why I would have to.” I quickly set the full syringe down on the edge of the sink. “Anything else you might need before I get to work on looking this over?”

 He looks down at the books, hesitating before picking up A Little Princess front he small stack on the floor. 

 “Could you read this one? Just a few pages?”

  I want to laugh, he looks so small again, and even more human and he wanted me to bloody read to him from one of Betsy’s books. I think of the ridiculousness of the entire situation and then damn it all.

 I put the syringe on the desk in my room, and go back to my chair next to the tub, taking the book from his his hands before he sinks down. Only his eyes and above are visible and his tail pushing out even more - his fins now dangerously close to the window and I do a quick glance out on the streets below before telling him to mind nobody should see him.

 He sighs into the water as I open the book again, a small army of bubbles surfacing and popping. I read aloud the following:

 “Once on a dark winter’s day, when the yellow fog hung so thick and heavy in the streets of London that the lamps were lighted and the shop windows blazed with gas they do at night, and odd-looking girl sat in a  cab with her father and was driven rather slowly through the big thoroughfares.


 We got to about Chapter Three before Kurt thanked me. He began stretching out and flexing and I tried not stare.  “I like this Sarah girl - but she seems a bit full of herself, and her father is such a kind man! Miss Minchin is a harpy, though.”, I snicker, “A well-respected harpy, she owns a school.”

 “Fine, a reputable harpy, but a harpy still.”

 Analyzing Kurt’s blood and comparing it took a few hours (as there were numerous notes to refer back to and a hypothesis that was moronic upon reviewing). There were three groups that he seemed resemble: ape and fish, obviously and the hints at reptilian traits and when analyzing a stray scale that was sitting at the bottom of the tub (he seems to shed at least three of them a day). The scales on his tail were fish but the ones that lined the rest of his body were more like that of a snake.

 He’s so damned odd. 

 Regardless, if he is a hybrid of three completely different phylums of animal - I couldn’t have been more luck to have found him. 

  There’s a knock on the door and I see Kurt shift in the water out of the corner of my eye. I unlock it and Betsy stands before me here posture rigid and her face completely neutral, and I know what’s wrong.

 “Father’s home?” I ask, she nods wordlessly. “I tried to tell him you weren’t back yet, but - Warren I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to let it slip that -” I wave her off, and she’s quiet for once. “Bette, it’s nothing - i’ll talk to the old brute. Is he in his study?” she nods and I glance back towards Kurt who’s watching the two of us from the door. When Betsy tries to lean in towards me to steal a look, I gently push her away.

 “Lead me to him, Bette.” so she does, she’s whenever father is around she grows cold and loses that fiery tongue and sharp eyes and she’s almost doll-like, even her tumbling dark locks seem to lose their shine and go dull. To see her like this is like tearing out one’s heart and tossing it into the hearth. But she’s doing it to protect herself, fear of my fathers words and hands grips her like a snake and she loses herself.

 I squeeze her shoulder as she pushes the door to Father’s study open. 

 “Sir?” she calls, voice shaky. “You’re home, I figured you’d have drowned.” he doesn’t turn, he’s going through his trunk, crouched so I can’t see him over the lid.

 Betsy stands deathly still and I gently pat her back, sending her on her way. “Bring me a coffee,” he calls after her “And a brandy.” I roll my eyes, and she hurries away.

 “I would have drowned, had i realized you’d still be living once I returned.” he chuckles, “Did you find anything in that river? Anything extraordinary?” he’s mocking me, he heard me the night before I left, talking excitedly to Bette about my trip as she helped me pack and I do remember using the word several times.

 “I’m showing my findings to the College next Thursday, I already let them know of my early return and the pulling committee requests I bring them all my gathered works as soon as i’m ready.” my voice is clear and intentionally snobbish, he guffaws and I grit my teeth to keep from shouting lest Kurt or Betsy hear.

 “You’re going to show them a load of tripe, you will. But I do admire your drive, an excuse for you to go to Germany and drink your weight in good beer under the guise that you’re going to study otters and algae. You’re a terrible liar.”

 “I did see an otter, well - rather I saw get eaten and the algae is actually just blossoming this time of year, sadly I left before I could see it flourish.” we do this all the damned time, deflect our hatred and throw it back at one another, and then look to see if the other is injured, regardless of whether or not they are - you keep going until you’ve satisfied yourself or the other is a screaming mess. I’m usually the latter.

  “Next Thursday?” he asked, i nodded. “What if they don’t show?” “Then they’d have wasted their own time, not mine.” “But you’re the one who needs to be published.” his voice is cool.

  “They’re not the only academic publishers in London.” I snap back.

 “They’re the only ones daft enough to listen to you, and that’s mostly because I paid their tuition.” 

 “If they’re so daft, why even send me?” 

 He pauses, “I thought I was sending you on the assumption that you should come to grips instead losing yourself with fish and rocks.” i don’t deny this, I lost myself in the water, and in return more my devotion it gave me my way out of this place.

 “I’m going on Thursday, I have to.”

 “I never said you couldn’t, I just don’t see the purpose. They won’t publish you over whatever you managed to scrape together in Germany, now if you can offer ten a deal, give them my card, I’m sure i could pay you off for the recommendation.”

 “I’m to giving any of those men a chance to sign their wills away to you and cheat their families, I’m giving them a look into a world we’ve yet to discover, a completely different side of life on this planet that we know so little about but that which so severely outnumbers us.” I’m rambling again, damn it all.

 He doesn’t twitch, but I know I’ve offended him. Thankfully Betsy comes in with the gleaming silver tray loaded with coffee and a bottle of brandy, Father chastises her for not knocking.

 “Damn maid, no manners, forgetful as all hell, can’t even lift ten pounds without help. Useless, useless.” he doesn’t say thanks and my face is ready, she curries despite his words and asks if he wants anything else, he grunts and she nods - looking towards me with those big, vulnerable eyes.

 I want to bash the bottle over his atrocious head, but I keep my composure.

  “Is that all, father? I’d like to return to my work.” my voice is nearly a hiss, and he takes a sip. “Humor us, boy. Run off with what you’ve found.”

 I slam the door back on him and Betsy is sitting on the stairs. I ruffle her hair, “I hate him.” she mutters. “We all do, we just hide it well.” she smiles and I pull her into a hug, she’s tall, nearly at my shoulders, and her cheeks are warm.

 “Have you finished your chores?” I ask, she says yes before I place a few pounds in her hands. “Bring me four pounds of bratwurst from Islington, yes?” she nods. “Run, moppet.” she kisses my cheek and she’s gone.

 When I return to my room and Kurt I don’t ask if he heard the exchange between Father and I, but he does ask about Betsy.

 “Is she your sister?”

 “Not entirely, though I can imagine it easily.” I shrug, Kurt turns a page in his book, probably a few chapters shy of finishing. “Everything’s well?” I ask. 

 He hums and when I turn away I can see his eyes still lingering on me from behind. 

 “It’s not every day a poet brings me books and takes my blood.” he says once I sit bad down at my desk, hastily scribbling again, another poem - it’s as disastrous as the others but I can’t bring myself to actually work. I chuckle and look back at him, there’s a bit of concern in his golden eyes but nay acknowledgement goes unsaid. He’s quiet and calm and his tail swishes just slightly. 

 I write another before bed that evening, after Kurt’s eaten and fallen asleep, with his now finished A Little Princess in his hand and dangling over the one side of the tub. The night is wet and thundering and I light a few candles in the washroom just so the harsh florescent light won’t bother him as much now that the darkness of night has set in. It is longer, but I think I favor this one, just a little:

 “Now I have found myself enraptured,

  with things unknown.

  That call to me like nightbirds,

   with lingering siren songs.

 

And in voices they speak,

 like a ringing in the ear.

 Though i shiver, though i wish to run,

  instead i run to them with no fear.

 

 I should leave, I should leave

  when the night calls and my wits are withered

 when they call to me in heady voices

 and leave me stupefied and shattered

 

And they hold me, and it is warm,

  warmer than any known human embrace,

 when they call to me with heady voices,

 with a song as sweet as sugar

 and a kiss soft as lace.”

 

It’s awful, and I think I’ll have some of the wine I brought back and get to bed before I never sleep at all tonight. 

Chapter Text

May 10th, 1906

 Out of pure spite, I telegrammed the College that instead of making my presentation next Thursday, I moved it to Monday afternoon at four.  They responded within less than two hours that the arrangement would be just fine, and there would be one more man present now that the time had been changed. I read aloud the letter to Betsy in the parlor and she was gleeful.

 “So you’re gonna show them - what? You can’t just be reading out a of a little book for an hour, they’ll be asleep!”

 “That hurt, Bette. But no, I’m bringing them some of my subjects and samples that I’ve brought back from Germany.” Mostly what we’ve been running to the butcher’s for since earlier this week, and the reason I’m usually in my washroom when you come up.

 I’m sure Father heard me and our the conversation that followed, but (thankfully) he decided to not comment on it. 

 After my return from the telegram office I set to work draining out Kurt’s tub.  He was uncharacteristically silent, although he did look rather comical sitting in the too-small steel laundry tub that could barely contain him save for some of his midriff, but it kept his gills from drying out.

 “Look!” he calls over to me as I’m trying to pick at a few stubborn scales that attached themselves to the side of the tub (he sheds them like mad). 

 I had taken off my shoes once I came in, and unfortunately left them within arm’s reach of Kurt, who now had each of them delicately balanced on each of his tail fins. I groan, but I humor him.

 “If you want shoes I could’ve bought you some.” he shakes his head, “These are just fine, already worn in, no need to do anything but walk.” 

 “Says the one who can’t.”

 “I can’t drown either.” he laughs and I grin. He launches into something incoherent, imitating me and I refuse to smile, his accent is entirely off. “Look, I’m you now, ‘I get to walk around and go on about how things are extraordinary and science will be the lifeblood of society if we learn only to look beyond what’s in front of us’.” 

  It’s a bit touching, he remembered something I was going on about back on the boat in Germany when I thought he was barely listening. 

 “You make me sound like a fool, how kind of you.”

  He fiddles with my shoe still attached to his tail, admiring it. “How much longer have you got until you’re done?” “Don’t know, though  I envy the Lahn, it knew how to clean up after you better than I can ever hope for.” I unbutton my waistcoat and go to toss it haphazardly onto the bed outside.

 “Sorry for the indecency, it was getting a bit restrictive - and wet.” I murmur going to clip a few curls back again before I catch Kurt’s eyes. They’re wide and the gaze hardly shifts.

 “You are talking about indecency to someone who has never worn a shirt.”

  “I never asked you to start,” I say back. “I want to, give me yours.”, my hand nearly slips into the tub and makes me lose my balance before I balk at him, he giggles and I can feel myself go red.

 I try and stammer something out but Kurt’s smile refuses to change, sweet and pleading at the same time and I tell myself that I’m only begrudgingly giving my shirt to him once I take it off. He puts it on effortlessly, the stark white making his blue skin all the more of a polarity against it.

 “How’d you learn to put it on if you’ve never worn a shirt, Kurt mine?”

 “Watching you.”, its getting wet now  but he eases himself out of the steel tub so  that it’s only the edges getting soaked. 

  There’s a flush on my chest that he can now see, and I’m just a little ashamed of it. 

May 13th, 1906

  On Sundays, Father allows leniency with Betsy, and so she attends Mass a few blocks away at nine. I usually only go with her for the walk, but I’m not one to actually go inside the sanctuary. 

 This week I attended the drawling service, not particularly to prove anything to anyone being that ‘Worthington’s are heathens, you never see them step foot in Church unless its for a funeral (as Worthington weddings are few and far between)’.  But I stayed with her despite the glances and glares, it was nervousness, mostly - my presentation, my publishing, my chance was the following afternoon  and I’d run all the tests I could without making Kurt uneasy.  I’d cared for him, I’d captured him, and he was mine, my way out

 So I tried to pay attention and I prayed what little I could remember of the Memorare, and Betsy clutched the ruby rosary I’d given here in her small, bony fingers leaning on me when the homily became too long.

 When Mass let out I was at the cemetery behind it, my mother’s grave blossoming with carnations as they did every spring. I wouldn’t weep, she’d been dead too long for me to shed a tear, but if she could see me, whether on some throne in the stars or if her bones could feel my feet six feet above them - I wanted her to remember I was here. I was fine and I was going to do something stunning

 Betsy had to tug on my shoulder to bring me back from the feeling of warm arms around me and soft sound of lilting lullabies. Mum would be proud, she had to be. She’d left me here so she could watch me be great from a better angle.

 “I would’ve liked your Mum as a mistress, she sounded nice.”, Betsy said on her way back home. “She was, though I think she would’ve treated the two us the same, the only difference being she would pay you.”, Betsy giggled and pushed me and I told her mind she didn’t dirty up her dress, I’d gotten that for her on her last birthday. Purple and accented with black Italian lace, her two favorite colors and it made her look like a well-off young lady with a father rich as a king.

 I kept an arm around her the whole way home and only let her go when I was on the stairs. She told me she should start on dinner and cleaning the parlor, which was a pretty light afternoon compared to how I’d heard father would keep her busy and exhausted when I wasn’t here. 

  She paused, tugging at my shoulder, “Warren, wait - I think you should keep this, for luck.” she removed the ruby-colored rosary from about her neck, placed in my hands, it was still warm from her pressing on it throughout mass and I looked up at her.

 “You need it.”

 “I barely ever go to Church, Bette.”

 “Maybe if you did more often you wouldn’t be so nervous.” on regular circumstances I would’ve scowled, but Betsy obviously meant well. “Why go to Church when there’s a little saint that lives in the attic?” I beam at her and she hides her face, “Warren, just take it. Take it, ya bloody sinner.” she giggles and I ruffle her raven curls, mussing them just the slightest.

 “Go on, before the Devil finds you.” she kisses my cheek and she’s gone. It’s hilarious, Kurt was supposed to be Hell when I saw him under that current, she’s supposed to be Heaven. But mostly, they are the both the latter. The only hell is the one who’s name is in wrought iron over the front door.

 I’m bounding up the stairs and back into my quarters when I hear muttering, and upon closer inspection I find myself wrong.

 It’s sobbing.

 Gently, gently I ease into the washroom and Kurt is weeping as if someone’s died

 I nearly slip on the wet floor in my haste to get to him, and I’m clinging desperately to the edges of the tub. “Kurt, what’s happened? What’s wrong?”, he doesn’t answer, and only submerges himself in the water, his sobbing still indicated by the bubbling that comes up.

 “Kurt, please don’t be difficult, please just talk to me.”, I’m losing myself, trying not to pull him up by his hair so he’ll talk to me. I see his figure shaking underneath the water, the lively redness of his eyes. 

 My hands tremble like that of an old man.

He slowly, slowly resurfaces, just his head and the first of his gils. “You brought me here, and you said I could go back, but this whole week, I have done nothing. I have been your pet, your - your doll for you to babble on about. I - I wouldn’t have come if I knew I was going to be used like this.”

 My stomach falls because he’s right, I need him for what he is, even if I find myself growing closer to him - writing him poetry, I still need him. But the awful thing about needing a person is that when you see them hurt (especially if you quite possible caused it) it makes you need them a thousand times more, even if they might not want a thing to do with you afterwards.

 And you just keep needing.

 “Kurt, I won’t use you.” I can feel myself lying. “And I’m sorry if I’ve belittled you, you’re something so different to me, so new - I figured I could grip this entire situation, but it seems I’ve only served to make both of us raging miserable.” I entwine my five fingers with his three, and he glances down at the joining.

 “I wasn’t built for this, it’s just - I miss home, I miss being able to see everything, to go and float and be free. But now, I feel like an animal that needs to be tamed.” he spits the words out and I squeeze his hand. 

 “You’re no animal. You’re a treasure.” 

 “That needs to be kept in a cage.”

 “I don’t want you getting hurt.”

 “I would’ve been less hurt in the River.”, his words are stinging, though his tone is soft and it unnerves me. “I don’t want to hurt you, Kurt. If anything - I want to keep you as pristine as you are now.” he goes stubbornly silent and I search for something, something to say before he decides on eating me whole to relieve his suffering. 

 “We’re going out tomorrow morning, I need you to rest up.” I see a hint of intrigue in his eyes, “Where?”. “I need you to trust me, I’ll get you out of this blasted tub, and we’re going through the countryside.”

 “Are going to let me go? If only for a few hours?”

 I bite my lip, the College is a good two and a half hours away by carriage, and there was a lake some mile or so from it, though I hadn’t thought of it until now but Kurt’s eyes are wide and hopeful and as bright as buttercups and I sigh, wiping away some of the soaking hair that’s attached itself to his sapphire face.

 “It’s set.”. Kurt lets out a relieved sigh and ends with a sob, and his hands squeeze about mine. “You can’t lie to me.”

 “I never would.” Our eyes hold for a moment, and our face are just a few inches away, but his own glance down at  wrist. “What’s this?”, he asked, running  his thumb over the rubies “Betsy gave it to me, and she called me a sinner.”

  Kurt laughs,“Can I..?”, I nod before he can finish his sentence, and he surveys the thing in his hands. He slowly turns the beads over in his fingers one by one until he gets to the little metal crucifix and the early afternoon light streaming in from the windows glints off of it and it comes alight in his palms. 

 “It’s gorgeous,” he says, and I’m too busy noting how much the rubies of the rosary resemble that of his eyes whenever he’s submerged.

 Damn him. 

 

May 14th, 1906

I’d helped Betsy with breakfast and she’d kissed me goodbye this afternoon and I pretended not to notice her lingering stare as we pulled off, her icy blue eyes locked on Kurt’s blanketed coffin-tank. 

If all was to go well, I’d show him to her.

As for Father, he had already busied himself with his first client of the day.

 Though I should’ve let Kurt know the two hour journey to the College would be two hours, and that we would be riding throughout the rugged countryside - I’d rented a sturdier carriage for the day , so if he were to feel the numerous bumps- it wouldn’t be to such a strong intensity. The back was larger, and allowed him to lift the lid of the coffin and stretch out if he pleased, and he’d asked me to bring for him his copy of “Doom of the Griffith’s” to read while we were separated.

  We found ourselves talking quietly through the little window in the wall that separated the coach from the trunk. When the streets of London gave way to rolling green and farmland,  I’d pulled back the window on his side.  Polar opposite of what he was used to, but i doubt he’d seen this such green so spread out in his life. After that, he’d eyes were fixed to the window, and I stopped talking since he’d long since stopped listening.

 Good, enough time to say about twenty Our Fathers before we made it into Englefield Green and Egham. 

  When we arrived at Hollow’s Polytechique, the building was more or less the same as I’d left it over a year ago (with a bit more ivy threatening to overtake the side). A grand, exuberant building it was, to the extreme that it seemed nearly self-important. Though it was, any one who had enough money to fill twenty graves and had a reputable name went there, and the grandeur of the place because Lord So-and-So’s father’s donation or the will of a Mister God-Knows-Who had kept it pompous and imposing.

 My eyes shifted just to the right, and behind the looming building was the rolling green and somewhere in it, the clear water against the horizon, I grinned. 

 “Kurt, Kurt, if you’re still alive back there, say something!” I laughed, jumping out of the carriage and into the back to unlatch the door, but Kurt was ogling at the building in abject fear. His ears were pressed backwards and his mouth agape as if he were a sinner standing hesitantly at the Gates of Hell. 

 Not the metaphor I would’ve picked myself, but it proved accurate.

 “What’s wrong, treasure?”

 “Is this a prison?”

 “Somewhat. Come, we’ve a few hours to kill.”. I covered his coffin-tank again and adjusted my pack. I had the coach driver help me unload him as we made our way up the four steps leading into the threshold and towards to the towering red door.

 I managed to knock with my elbow, and there stood Peter, looking as if he’d just awoken from a week-long slumber. His hair was graying, though I was older than him, but his face remained that of a boy Betsy’s age, and God, if a place seemed to be too tranquil he would be there to raise the precise amount of hell. 

 He’d lived in America for most of his life before attending here, some suspecting his father had sent for him - but it was all just rumors and clucking ladies at the street corners. His supposed father used to be a professor at before we’d merged with a small medical school in Surrey some years before I’d come, and he’d promptly left, though his donations made his presence as encompassing as an angry ocean. 

 “Worthington the Three, damn, didn’t think you’d be back so early, what’s it now?” he asked, clapping my back and kissing my cheek. I had to remember he was American, and simply couldn’t control his affection. “A presentation, unlike you, I plan on doing more than trodding around my past.”

 “You sure don’t look any better, and presentation? I figured you’d be off somewhere wooing the hearts of madmen and philosophers with your words.”

 “I don’t woo hearts, anymore - not when I’m sober, anyways. I have to bring this to the Westings Room, could you be any help?” he snorted and looked behind him, “Yeah, that’s alright. Come up to my room for a smoke after and forget that we’re growing old?”

 I glanced back to the tank, I knew Kurt could hear us (albeit a bit garbled), and there was the barely audible tapping of claws against the glass. It was only around two, I wouldn’t have to be in Westings until half past four.

 “Sounds heavenly.” I said, the taping turned into a light scrape and I winced, but was careful not to drop the tank. Peter let us followed him in before he took over for the coach driver and we carried Kurt’s coffin fifteen minutes to the Westings Room.

 “What’s in here, a body?” he laughed breathlessly. “Of sorts.” my answer was stubbornly short.  “Can I see?”

 “Walk faster, Maximoff. I know you can” he grinned, curiosity sparking in him as we finally made it into the room.

 “Show me, come on, Warren.” my face blanched - I could only imagine whatever flaring anger was inlay in Kurt’s face underneath the water, and I shook my head.

 “It’s nothing, just a few samples I brought back from Germany and some ale I brought back for Professor Nur, he never minds bribery.” I lied, and the answer seemed enough for Peter, as he began to walk away and waved me towards him. I readjusted my pack and patted the blanketed tank.

 I truly had meant to take him to that lake.

 


 

   The assembled publishing council consisted of eight men, six of which I recognized. Professor Nur, who worked for one of our sister colleges in Africa before coming to Egham and Englefield, was in attendance as well. All of these men carried with them enough money to fill the Lahn thrice over and with their impeccable suits, they had an aura of ineffable smugness that I most often saw my father wear after a successful business deal. 

 In their presence, the high seating and walls of the Westings Room became like that of a trail - that only ended in me being sent to the guillotine or sent away with money and the promise of seventy acres of land.

 I took in a deep breath, watching as the clock read three minutes to four, Peter (who had no classes until five and I’m sure he wouldn’t be attending them regardless), had stationed himself by the door  to scream at any would be students that dared enter this more sacred ground of scrutiny.

 Mummy, if you can see me, strike them all blind so they mustn’t witness the atrocity, but hear the words

 3:58. I kiss the rosary that I wrapped about my wrist, my breath has the light twinge of southern whiskey - and my cheeks are so slightly pink - I must look like a fool. I should take Kurt and go home, I’d walk back to London with him balanced on my head if needed.

 3:59. The room is quivering, and the loudest noise is the murmurs, they will have my blood they will, as this is revenge for me taking Kurt’s. They will drain it from me and they will enjoy it. 

  I glance to the tank, now covered in the dusty old blanket - and in it holds my dearest treasure

 4:00.

 I open my mouth, the words tumble out are as eloquent as a baby’s babble.

 “I understand that many of you have lived a great deal’s on this rock longer than I have. You have cried more than I, laughed more than I, perhaps even loved somehow more than I have and for this I am grateful. I am grateful for those who have seen the past and can readily compare it to the present, and use this to paint for those less knowledgable an image of the future. Thirty, forty years ago we’d have never imagined how far we’ve come, with our exploration, or technology, our desperation to make ourselves great. And now, I stand before you, ignorant, young - and reckless as all hell, to say I have looked into the future, looked out into that endless abyss, and what looked back on me was a world the man has not yet trod upon.”

  “In the water, we leave so much of it uncharted, so much of it unknown; but yet if it were to open up and swallow us this very afternoon, we’d have all drowned fools. Fools unknowing as to what lays under those currents, in those reefs and -” I glance back at my tank, “In riverbeds.”

 The men are staring now, but the emotions are mixed, some raptly interested, others already resorted to drawing their eyes back to the walls. Peter doesn’t break contact, and he stares at me as if i’m a shimmering full moon.

 “Gentlemen, if I told you on my trip to Germany, I discovered not only good ale, beautiful women, and several different types of frogs, you’d perhaps laugh and ask why I wasted your time so. But I will continue to do so, I will continue to waste your time on things that glare back at us from a world we share, but are oblivious to.”

 I grip the edge of the blanket, “Those bred from perhaps three or more species: fish, ape and reptile. But this creature, this dazzling, stupefying and utterly indelible life; is no animal: but the true conception of the gods.” I pull it back.

 The room comes alive with sound. Gasps, yelps, curses, that I must look back to make sure no one has fainted. But when I turn back to Kurt he’s almost unrecognizable.

 I have seen him with his red eyes before, yes, but there was a softness in them, a kindness. Now, I see resentment and fury, and in the lights of the hall, they are almost alight as they look directly at me. 

 I’m nervous again, but I can’t stop it now, the crowd his held to me, and I must bring them closer.

 “Worthington, you’ve brought us a demon!” screams one of the men I don’t recognize, his hook nose raising in shock.

 “What are you playing at? You bring us this fairy tale?” someone else yells, but they are intrigued, if there is disbelief in the room I can disprove it by simply pushing off the lid to Kurt’s coffin tank.

 “Gentlemen, i’ve stayed up countless nights reviewing and writing and rehashing what floats in front of me, but if your heart isn’t given so easily I invite you to come get  closer look. Please mind the tank, it’s delicate and irreplaceable.”

 Kurt’s pupils dilate farther as they get closer, and he presses himself to the bottom of the tank. They come up like a pack of dogs descending on their prey, the ogle, they speak all at once, all but Proffessor Nur, who sat up the highest, and in the lecture hall his dark skin makes him appear to be nearly a shadow.

 They tap the glass, they congratulate me, I smile and my fingers are trembling as they rest at the other end of the tank.

I’ve done it, I’ve done it. Oh God, I’ve done it. I can leave Canonbury, bring Betsy, leave behind that house and let my Father rot with it. I swear I can hear Mummy rejoicing in her grave, she’s glad for me, that I’ve managed it this far. Peter’s pushing past the other men to see, but the edge him out of the way, greedy to get a look. 

 Kurt goes still, and from where I’m standing I cannot see his face, and I fear he’s gone into shock.

 Then there’s the mighty kickback of water and the blue the rises from it, before the horrible crack as his powerful jaw clamps down on waiting flesh. 

I scream for Kurt to stop, but he doesn’t so much as look back at me. 

 The man screams, he jowls flapping about and bouncing, but Kurt does not let go, the two fools that try to pull him off are promptly met with the slice of his claw across each of their faces. His tail is swatting wildly, presenting to violently clout whoever grows to close. He doesn’t stop, his jaw tightens, the bone cracks and blood flows outwards until it snaps off. 

When Kurt sinks back into the water, the space where the man’s hand used to be is now empty air. The blood is flowing out into the tank and the water is becoming tinged red, the floor is steadily being covered in it.

 So, I yell for Peter and run.

 We carry it out several times quicker than we carried it in. Ignoring the commotion and the stares, we run, we run - we run.

 I unceremoniously toss the coffin into the back of the coach again, sending water everywhere, I scream for the driver to go back to London. Now.

 The school fades away the speed of sound, my breath is coming in too quickly and the world around me is becoming a blur of several hundred colors. My head pounds, and I can see Mummy bawling, bawling as I did when I was six and she left me here with him. And now Kurt, he took it away, everything, everything - with the brutal animal inlay in him, he stole it all away,

  I want to scream at him, at everything. I want to tear him to shreds. 

 I simmer the way back to London, and more than a few times to a swear I heard him laugh

 


 

 We reach back to Clephane Road after seven, and I haven’t so much as slept. Betsy comes to the door, face glowing and elated, “How was it?” but I glower at her, and her smile falls.

 “Help me with the tank.” I all but growl, and she goes rigid, like she does around my father. I’ve never spoken to her so rudely, I grab my pack out of my seat. I could care less if she saw Kurt now, and her eyes are wide, but I look at her sharply and she swallows her words.

 We take him up quickly, a silent entourage. Kurt’s eyes are fixated towards me and he ignores the little girl holding up the latter end of his coffin-tank, I ignore him as we set him down on the floor and I slam the door in Betsy’s face, telling her to lock the one that leads into my room and go downstairs.

 I flip open the tank’s lid so hard that it slams against the tile floor, and I don’t care if it cracks. I should’ve opened the trunk on the way back, and let him fall out. 

 I search for the man’s hand as I pace about the room, Kurt’s eyes following me. There’s nothing, nothing but bones floating about and shreds of muscle. I fight the urge to vomit.

 So I scream.

 “I needed you, Creature. I damn needed you.”

 “For money.”, he isn’t screaming, but his voice is cold.

 I don’t care. Our eyes lock, and we wait for one to kill the other.

 “I trusted you, an animal. I put so much hope in you, that you’d being what saved me, what pulled me up from this fucking pit and yet, I’ve seen nothing in you.”

 “They were looking at me like I was a piece of meat, I could see it in them, they would’ve eaten me alive!”

 “They would’ve praised you, Kurt! They would’ve held you on their damn shoulders, they’ve would’ve loved you.”

 His eyes widen, and they brim with tears. I tell myself not to care. i tell myself that I have no reason to be concerned if I hurt him, he’s destroyed me already.

 “They would’ve praised you, you brought the demon to them and when they sent you off with your money and your Scheisse poetry, they’d have me caged, forced to play around like their little toy! You lied to me!”

 I laugh, though it lacks mirth, I laugh hard. Because I pulled him from that river, and I promised him one in return. And beauty and London and poetry,  I promised him the world.

 So I laugh because I’m a fucking fool. 

 Enough to off-put him, “Fine, I’m selfish and you’re right. I stole you away from the river so I could profit from you, I’m selfish, and I’m a fool for believing in a mindless, bloodthirsty animal.

 Kurt chokes then, and his sobs reverberate through the tile room, i hear blood rushing in my ears as it intensifies. I don’t care. I don’t care. I don’t give a fuck if he cries. He deserves this.

 “You’re honest.” he whimpers out, “Just like your father.”

 My face relaxes and I look to him in disbelief, I want to tell him that’s not true, but neither of us seems to be able to disprove the other.

 “I should’ve dumped you on that road.” I say, I don’t mean it. But it deflects, it helps, makes it seem like he hasn’t hurt me. I’ve played this game too many time to lose to a first-time player.

 “I should have eaten you once I saw you, Sie pompös Affe.” my face contorts in slight disgust and bewilderment, before I shut off the light and slam the door. 

 I change, hurriedly out of my stainless suit and into something a  bit more worn, I scream for Betsy to not wait up for me, and within minutes, I’m on the streets again.

If there’s anything myself and my father have in common, it’s that we drink to forget. Doing so keeps us with conveniently awful memories. 

Chapter Text

May 15th, 1906

 Somewhere in between a drunken haze and besides some whore who moaned too loudly to be genuine, I saw my mother.

 She wasn’t the skeletal, dying woman I last remember her being, but she returned to me last night. Her skin pink and lightly freckled with stars, her hair was spun from pure gold and in her eyes was a peaceful sea.

 She wore her favorite color: blue.

 “Mummy,” my voice was hardly a whisper, and I rubbed my eyes - but she kept striding towards me, languid and calm before sitting at the foot of the bed. Her hair blew in a nonexistent gentle breeze, and she smiled.

 “Why must you do this to me, Warren mine?” her phantom hand rubs against my arm, and she’s warm and feels nearly real. “Be so angry, be so wayward.” I set my jaw, trying to think of words to say and finding them clump into my throat, and I am made mute by her.

 “I regret paining you so, but you show no remorse for paining me, to chase some dream only to hurt me and those that have happened upon you.” her words echo, and I shake my head, not trying to meet her eyes. “You’ve been watching, so you must’ve known what happened. I may not have meant everything I’d said to him, but I’d said everything I wanted to say.”

 “And at what cost? To hurt him so?”  I shrug, “He’s a fish, if he feels pain it’s of no matter to me.” she frowns and leans in closer, and I can vaguely see the other side of the room through her body. “He is no fish, you said it yourself. You praised him as if he were the incarnate of God, only to slander him so hatefully some hours later.”

 “But what he’s done, everything I’ve done to make you proud, all these years of work and he eats a man’s hand.”

 “He’s afraid, Warren. Afraid of us, yes, afraid of this world you’ve thrown him into so unlike his own. But he isn’t hateful, and he isn’t a mindless animal.”, she kissed my forehead and runs her hands through my hair. Her face begins to blur behind my tears and I wanted to be angry with her for taking up for Kurt instead of me, but my mother was always three things: beautiful, warm and undeniably right about everything. 

  She sighs, toying with my curls and I push back to her touch. “You are kind, inamorata, kind and loving and good.” my breath shudders out at the name, and her eyes never leave mine. “I’m not kind and I am not loving.” I whisper to her, my voice choked.

 She chuckles and I want to bawl, “If you were not kind and you were not loving, you wouldn’t have brought him back with you. You would’ve killed him and kept him preserved.”

 She plants a final kiss to my skin and I shut my eyes, “Goodnight, inamorata.”

 And she is gone.

 I don’t remember crying so much since she died.

 


 I left the brothel sometime at dawn and I took the longest route home, trying to piece together thoughts and nonsense before I got back.

 Kurt was afraid, he was a stranger and I was his captor. I had brought him back chained with promises I wouldn’t bother to keep, and kept him sated on books and lies and he’d gone with it, gone with it and taken everything I could’ve given to him. My lies, my arrogance, my hopes for something better and my devotion for him smudged somewhere in between all of it. I’d taken and taken and taken and Kurt had done nothing but give to me his smiles and his wild mystery and his endearing mispronunciation of my name.

 Kurt was a saint to be honored and venerated and made up in stained glass and I was a vile sinner to be scorned and burned at the stake for my misdeeds.

 I strolled over two neighborhoods, wondering how I’d managed to make it all the way from Canonbury to Stoke Newington in a rage last night. Kurt, Kurt, Kurt, good lord what had I done to him?

 The worried looks and cut eyes that passed me were of no matter, they couldn’t have known his beauty, his charm and his unrelenting danger that shouldn’t have drawn me towards him on those riverbanks. But damn my curiosity and damn him, damn him for being himself. 

 When I managed to turn onto Clephane Road, our house stark white against the deep red brick of the rest of the block. My heart constricted and I took in a breath. If he wished not to speak to me, I would not hold it against him. He could call me a fool, put me in my place and I wouldn’t raise my voice.

  I opened the door easily, and the house was deathly quiet and I feared that not even Betsy might be home. I’d wanted to talk to her first, apologize for what I brute I’d been, but when I called to her, she didn’t respond.

 I uneasily made my way up the stairs, only to hear the pieces of a hushed conversation.

 “I’m sure he didn’t mean what he said.”

 “He didn’t, he could not have. But after what I did, I wouldn’t be surprised.”

 “What else were you to do?”

 “I don’t know, Betsy. I panicked. I was angry with him, not them - I don’t want to be here, in this cage, I want to go home.

“ Kurt I’m so sorry,” but I don’t make myself known. “But I don’t want him to hurt because of me.” 

 Betsy mutters something else as Kurt breaks down again, I take off my shoes and slowly walk into the washroom again.

 Kurt’s eyes are puffy and his skin has lost its glow, Betsy’s stare is that of shock and fear. I feel like tearing out of my skin. “Warren,” Betsy speaks, though my gaze is set on Kurt’s and his on mine, he looks pained and I look as if I’d just crawled out of my own coffin. “Warren, I’m sorry, I won’t tell anyone about him but he was just so upset and so sad.” she babbles and tries to hurry out, but I catch her shoulder.

 “I’m sorry that this was to be the circumstances for which the two of you formally met, all because of me being a fool in all the wrong ways.” Betsy gives a relieved sigh before wrapping her arms around me. “We thought you weren’t coming back, at least not so soon.” I shake my head and rub her back, though Kurt’s eyes are downcast.

 “I can’t leave the two of you here to mope and moan whilst I’m out doing the same.” she smiles  and runs her hands through my hair. “I’m sorry, Bette.” she shakes her head. “You’re forgiven.” I grin and squeeze her tighter.

 “Now, uh, a moment alone, please?” she glances between myself and Kurt. “Of course.” she ushers herself out of the washroom and closes the door, leaving me behind with my Creature.

 I turn back to him and he sniffs. “Go on then,” I say “Call me a pig, a liar, a bastard for doing this to you.” I goad him, his mouth opens slightly but he doesn’t speak. “Curse me, be as angry as you can. Whatever you must do to unburden yourself, call me a coward, tell me you’ve wanted to leave since you came.” I’m stalking towards him now, and he presses himself to the other side of the tub again as if expecting me to strike him.

 “But, please - once you’ve rained fire and brimstone about me, at least tell me you will somewhat forgive me.”

 He uncoils one of his hands, and caught in the webs are the red rosary I’d left behind. He tries not to appear saddened but the crease between his brows does nothing to let up and he turns away 

 “Varren, I should leave, I should swim back to Germany if that’s what it takes so I don’t have to ruin you any more than I already have.” his voice solemn, as if he’s actually made plans to do it this very evening, “London is beautiful if you have legs, but this,” he lifts his tail just slightly, “Seems to be a bit much for it.”

 I lean down next to him. “But all you’ve done, I realize I can’t keep you here. You weren’t built for bathtubs or coffin-tanks, your beauty and aura was crafted at the murky bottom of a river, and if I am to take that away from you, it is better I kill you with it.” I  squeeze at his hand, intertwining his huge ones with mine.

 “Animal or not, you can’t change me, change what I am and you can’t change what you are. You’re human, I am not. We’re naturally different, and I don’t think you understand that.  ” there is actually a hint of regret in his words and his tone isn’t cold like last night, it is only mostly sad and frustrated. 

 “This is true.” I murmur “But what you did was justified and I should’ve remembered that I pulled you from a place you were most comfortable with. I cannot me angry with you for something that’s entirely my fault.” I run my thumb across on of the scales on his hand. “I must accept that you will never be human, nor can I expect you to be my pet.”

 Kurt looks up, eyes widening and ears perking up, but I bring his chin gently to face mine, “But I can rely on you to be Kurt, yes? To make me feel hopeless and ugly in your presence?” he turns, looks me up and down and there’s a hint of twinkling in those divine canary eyes. 

 He doesn’t speak, for what seems like years he sits, contemplates and turns the words over in his head. There is a part of me that wishes for hint to last out, as I did to him, but I ache for some sort of kindness in those eyes, some sort of familiarity. 

 “And will you not think of me as an animal, or a profit?” I shake my head and he turns towards me. His face is unreadable, but his eyes are wide, hopeful, though pained.  He reaches out, holds me and soaks me as he usually does. For once I haven’t given him beautiful lies and promises, but instead something tangible.

Home. 

 “Kurt, mine. I’m sorry. I’m a fool.” I want to tell him I was the animalistic brute I claimed him to be so ardently. But there is a woman speaking in the back of my head in a clear and sweet voice. So I hold him, and he trembles and cries just softly until I do as well. 

 He sit there, holding each other and I apologies to him until my words become nonsense and babble, he doesn’t speak, only saying my name through his wavering voice.

 


 

 Later on that afternoon, after I’d spent more or less the entire day with Kurt, there was a proposal. 

 “New River, hm?” Kurt asked for the fourth time, as if in disbelief.

 “It’s about a three minute carriage ride, and if we go at night, there’d be no other witnesses besides the moon.”

 Kurt considers it, another outing with me, this one at nightfall to a fiver that could very well be his end. Betsy is perched on a stool, having snuck away from scrubbing duties to infiltrate the washroom’s spoils.

  “It is nice, so I’ve been told, Kurt. You’d like it.” Kurt’s skeptical gaze softens when she speaks and he leans backwards.

 “Just to solidify the apology, yes? Unless you’d rather stay in for the evening and listen to my Sheisse poetry.” Kurt huffs a laugh and takes a moment to nod. “Fine, tonight, then. Wear something dapper.” Betsy nudges me, wiggling her eyebrows and I nearly knock her off her stool but she begins to laugh.

 “I often hear of forbidden lovers going into that park at night.” she whispers in my ear and I scowl at her, she only smirks. Kurt, curious as always, asks what she said and I hoist her up in an attempt to carry her out. “Don’t go into that park!”, she says amongst a flurry of giggles, “You’ll become lovers!”

 “This is why you’re not going.”

 “Well, yes, I can’t swim, but I wouldn’t want to intrude.” she wiggles her eyebrows again, and I set her down on the floor outside my room before shutting the door with her laughs still coming through it, although muffled.

 Kurt is giggling too and I walk back to him, his eyes narrowed just slightly and his usual benign smile that of a smirk.

 “Are we still going?”

 “Damn right we are, wear something dapper? “ I confirm with him, he nods and reaches for his newest read: Wurthering Heights by Bronte.

 I don’t remember gifting that book to Betsy, nor do I remember reading it myself, but I don’t question it’s source or Kurt in general. 

 


 

Later that evening, I had dressed as if attending one of those rare weddings, Kurt, adorned in pearls that Betsy had managed to dig up from my Mum’s old jewelry box. A white headband amongst stark black locks, wrists with at least five or six mismatching bracelets each, and the layered necklace. He did look enchanting, still, as if he’d pulled the load of them from the sea instead of a box that had gone unopened for nearly twenty years.

 “You sure you’ll need all of that? You’re going into the river, Kurt.” he shrugs, claw picking at his fangs again. “Well you’re looking elegant, we should match.”  I roll my eyes and go back to trying and to button my cuffs before giving up moments later. 

 “Elegance is something one is born with and simply perfects overtime, others may try to imitate, but its painfully obvious they aren’t naturally gifted.” Kurt chuckles and rolls his eyes, “So, were you born with it?” “God, no - I was talking about you.”

  Kurt laughs then, and I’m happy to hear the return of the sound. If anything, he’s not as stiff, and there’s a bit more ease when I’m around. Betsy comes in without knocking, but it’s half-past ten and she’s in her nightgown with her hair tumbling down her back.

 “I thought you’d gone already.” she waves to Kurt who winks at her, “Soon, Elizabetsy, but it’s after hours, you don’t have to help.” she climbs onto my bed. “No, I wasn’t coming to help, I was coming to see the two of you off.” she smiled, “Kurt, how’s Wuthering Heights?”

 “Edgar Linton is an Asrch.” Kurt drawls, and Betsy snickers - “You gave it to him?” I ask her incredulously, she shrugs. “Yes an’ no, it was in your father’s library.” my eyes widen and I swallow. “Never suspected him being a lover of such - passionate prose.”

 They both laugh, and I smile, they’ve taken to each other so quickly and I’m glad.

 “Speaking of passion, we should be shoving off, yes?” my eyebrows furrow and I realize what I’ve just said, and it leads the two of them into another fit of laughter.

 I roll my eyes, and I go downstairs to get the cart from the back of the house.

 “Where are you going looking so smart?” it’s Father, downstairs for a nightcap, Betsy goes off-duty after eight which reduces him to the subhuman state of doing simple tasks for himself. I only barely see him the darkness of the kitchen.

 “Out.” I say.

 “You did that last night, quite spectacularly, too. Who had vexed you so during that argument?” my eyes widened and my hand tightened on the door.

  “God.” I murmured before slamming it behind me. Damn him especially. 

 I tried to open the shed as quietly as possible, and the removal of the old cart took a good ten minutes with all the just that had been accusation on top of it, and even then, to wheel it in-between the tight alley proved difficult, but not impossible.

 I finished up and ran back to Kurt, who was still chattering away with Betsy. “Seems we’re ready, Kurt, your tank, please.” the fish boy in question shook his head. “We’re only going to be in it for about three minutes, I’ll survive.”

 “Are you sure?” he nods, “Betsy, bring that blanket at the foot of the bed, will you?”, I hand her my suit jacket before pulling Kurt out of the tub myself and three of us make our way downstairs and out to the front, I checked to make sure father was back in his room again, the bastard.

 I lay Kurt in the small cart and Betsy drapes the blanket over his shoulders, making him look even more fashionable than he already is. 

 “Can I stay in your bed, Warren?” Betsy asks from the stoop, I shrug, “Make it your own.” and she darts back upstairs with a giddy grin, I close the door and turn back to Kurt.

 “Lead the way, poet.” he reclines and I roll him my eyes, “Not even five minutes in, and I’m become your servant.” I pull the cart up the remainder of Clephane and turn onto Douglas, before walking another five minutes to turn into the parks gates, which with it being a smaller park, are never closed except for holidays.

 “Still alive, treasure?” Kurt hums, his eyes toward the spring evening’s sky, half moon and a myriad of stars. The night is warmer than anticipated as well, but neither of us are complaining as I worm my way through the paths. The park makes an oval with the river in the center surrounded by brush. 

 When Kurt hears the babbling of the river from behind the brush he never jumps from the cart. “Patience.” I chide him lightly. “Patience is for those who can afford to wait.” his ears are perked and his eyes shimmer against the night, I pull the cart as far into the brush as I can before it begins to be stubborn amongst the bushes and trees. I pick Kurt up again and carry him to the river.

 I can feel his heart practically vibrating with its pace.

  When he sees it, he’s in a rush to get all the pearls from him, and one I carefully undo his necklace, he’s plunging into it with no shortage of mirth.

 New River is definitely not as large as the Lahn, only about ten feet across at this point and mostly likely considerably shallower, but Kurt disappears under that slow current and I can’t help but grin and clutch his pearls to my chest.

When Kurt resurfaces, he is beaming and he floats agains the current. He looks so comfortable and at home, I sit in on the blanket and watch.

 “How is it?”

 “Positively awful.” he mimics me again, and I snort. 

 I missed this sight dearly, Kurt’s tranquility when surrounded by water, when his very own allure was at its height. I don’t speak, I don’t have to, and if I would, I’d pen it all down with such vigor I’m sure my wrists would break. To describe like this should be could considered insulting, the human tongue can only offer up meager comparisons.

 So tameless and vivid, and I am the arse that caged him. Damn me especially.

 I don’t realize I’m staring, but Kurt does. 

 “Something wrong, Varren?”, he sinks slightly more, only his eyes visible. “Nothing, Kurt, I just realized how much I’ve missed this, seeing you here. Even in this man-made tripe, you just look so breathtaking.” 

 Kurt rolls his eyes, “From the same one who called me an animal last night.”

 “I apologized.”

 “You’re full of Sheisse, that’s why I haven’t eaten you yet.”

 “I thought the only thing Sheisse about me was my poetry.”

 Kurt hummed, “No, it’s both, Sheisse only brings more of itself.”

 I broke into giggles, and Kurt leaned on the bank, arms folding under him and webbed fingers picking at some of his scales and I sit cross-legged a foot or so away. 

 “So, are you going to do it - just give up on everything you’ve worked for, Varren? After I go back?”

 I sigh, though I’m surprised that he’d asked so suddenly, leaning back onto the blanket, “I’m not sure, of all the nonsense going on now, I wouldn’t mind it. I’m a bit young to become a professor, but I suppose if your repertoire is full enough they’ll at least consider me.”

 “And Betsy?” my eyes narrow slightly, if anything I’m genuinely surprised Kurt gets along with her, let alone is concerned for her well-being. “I suppose she comes with me, I’d be a moron to leave her home alone and not even come back this time.”

 Kurt’s lips quirk up, “How’d you two even come about one another?” I ask, Kurt’s ear twitching just the slightest. “She came upstairs right after you left last night and - I don’t know if she was afraid or just felt terrible, I snapped at her, but she didn’t so much as flinch.”

 “She’s used to it, the snapping.”

 “But I wasn’t angry with her, just you - and she stayed down there the whole night. Told me she knew what it was having to hide some part of yourself to keep from getting hurt, even if she didn’t entirely understand.” he shrugged, “She’s kind, I think. Just very kind.”

 I smiled warmly at him, edging closer. “I’d take her with me, if I could. But her family in Scotland gets money sent to them by my father because of her work, if I were to take her they’d starve.” I look back up at the moon. “If there is a God or something of the sort, I hope he or she realizes there’s an angel missing from their army.”

 Kurt grins and his eyes hold mine, his elbows are practically resting on my knee. It is such a departure from the feral fury of yesterday, he is serene and fey and dangerous, yes, but tantalizing and enticing all the same.

 “Do you want to come in?” he asks, voice low. I flush a bit, “I can’t swim.”. He isn’t having it. ‘’For a man so in love with the water, and he can’t swim? I’ll hold you, then.”

 I arch a brow and Kurt only looks up invitingly, and I cannot bring myself to deny him. He waits, with some irritability, as I attempt to rid myself of most of the layers of clothes, “This was your fault, you told me to wear something dapper.” “I didn’t mean put on your entire wardrobe.”

 “Oh, please. You’d be lucky I wasn’t woman, I’m not entirely sure you’d be happy with helping me unlace a corset.” Kurt snorts, “And if I had legs I’d never wear pants.” “I thought you didn’t want legs, what happened?” “You made me jealous.”

 As I said earlier, the New isn’t that deep, but I have to close my eyes and trust in Kurt that he won’t let me drown or eat me whilst the darkness of the water has my vision, so I let myself fall.

 There’s obviously the splash that comes through muffled, and the warbling of the water returns. I kick my feet slowly, not feeling a floor beneath them. This is what troubles me, the endlessness, the feelings that the surface can no longer see you, as if you’ve been ripped from that part of the world. There’s that feeling again, nearly like lips and then one hand on my arm and the other on the small of my back.

 I open my eyes and there’s nothing but two red orbs staring back, with Kurt’s skin and the darkness, his eyes are the only thing visible, he might as well me a shadow.

  He takes hold of me and there’s a strip of white that turns upward as it exposes itself, he’s grinning and this should be terrifying and menacing, but damn I can’t look away.

 I motion for him to loosen his grip and I come up for air for a second, before coming back down to the shadow-Kurt. He holds me again, and then we’re moving, the current pushing with us and Kurt’s eyes are wide. The New river is more empty when it comes to wildlife, and we might possibly be the only living things in, but its’ the space, the depth, the feel of being surrounded by something so familiar, that I think Kurt is just glad it isn’t more crowded. 

 I tap him every time I need to come up for air, but for rest of it, we’re just floating, easily just going down with current and I can barely see but the gentleness, the feel of a hand around me, only interrupted by the occasional burning in my lungs.

 There’s a melody, somewhere close by and it takes me a moment to realize it’s Kurt singing. It’s German, so my translation would most likely be rubbish, but it doesn’t matter. I listen anyways, and I’m lulled I hold to his arm tighter and red eyes turn in my direction, he keeps singing, and I caught a few  distinct lines.

 “ - and when I’ve gone and turned to ashes,

  and what is left must float out to sea,

 what you loved, you now must lose,

  but keep in your heart the memories.”

 Something of that sort.

 I go up another time, only discover we’re significantly farther up stream, the brush much thicker and the trees nearly covering up the moon, a more secluded section of the park, if we’re still in the park at all. I tap Kurt again and he comes up with me, “This is fine, yeah? We went far.” Kurt nods, but he doesn’t let loose his hold on me.

 Frankly, I never wanted him to. 

 We’re inches apart, and I fear even my whisper is too loud for him. “Thank you for this, Kurt.” I say, “For everything, for you.” I was soaking wet, and Kurt isn’t a shadow anymore, but in the peaks of moonlight that manage through the canopy of trees, his skin is nearly luminous.

 “Varren, no, thank you for this, for - for understanding.” he smiles, and his tail pulls me closer, our chests touching now and our faces much too close, I trace the markings on his face with my thumb and he presses his cheek into my hand.

 “Kurt, mine?”

 “Yes, Varren?”

 It is slow, and I try my best to miss his fangs, but I manage the fit. 

 He tenses, just the slightest and at first I fear he will either push me away or bite my lips clean off and proceed to devour the rest of me.  But he lifts me, damn lifts me as if I’m nothing and then I’m sitting on his arm with a leg around his chest and I laugh for him to put me down, breaking the kiss just slightly. I let him lead, and it’s a good mix of hungry and sweet, not depraved but not virginal and what minimal skill I have in this field I use, and no one complains.

  He bites my lip, fangs just barely piercing skin as I pull away.

 “You kiss like a blushing bride.” he chuckles, “You kiss like you mean to claim me, though you’ve already done that.” he smiles I lean down for a peck. “Any reason you’ve picked me up?” “The moon behind you, since your hair is gold it almost lights up, like a halo.”

 My eyebrows raise and he keeps going, “Can I call you Mein Engel?” I don’t bother asking for a translation, I already know. “Even after - ?” I’m silenced with another kiss, and I felt like crumbling.

 “Of course, treasure. Of course.” Kurt smiles, and I pull myself up to the bank, helping him up so he can lay besides me, there’s crickets and the distant barking of a dog. 

 “You are otherworldly, Kurt. Truly otherworldly.” I murmur to him and he turns, grinning and baring malicious-looking teeth. “Thank you, Engel.” and the moon and the nightbirds and the leaves of the trees gazed down at us, and I enveloped my hand in his. 

And I have never loved a darker shade of blue.

Chapter Text

May 16th, 1906

 Last night was that of a lovesick and ethereal haze guarded only by moonlight and accompanied by the soft babbling of the New River. The initial kiss left me at a loss for words for a good remainder of the night, but Kurt was nearly smug and blissful.

 “Are there any other creatures like you?” I asked him when the sky was just beginning to lighten and he had moved us back up to our original spot on the bank. He shrugs, “I had a mother, I think I did, but she’s all I remember. I don’t think mermaids much care for each other’s company, competition and viciousness keep us apart, expect to our mates.”

He looks into the water as if it will stare back at him, “Since I was small I’ve had me, just me and the water and none of them and I’ve been fine, mostly. I’ve been alright.” he goes on, dragging a claw through the water. “I don’t know, Varren, there’s things I don’t think either of us understand about one another. I’ll never fully know you, and you won’t know me. Not for a long time.”

  The words sting a bit, his bluntness and low tone, because we don’t have a long time, about two weeks at best. I consider if he believes us to be mated, then he believes me to be the only companion he needs and he perhaps doesn’t want to leave me  (and then I consider that mating doesn’t just imply kissing in rivers and flirting on the banks, and then I remember I’m also a moron) but either way, I don’t press the matter.

 “So all this, then, having me, rather for this time, is it different?”

 “Of course it’s different, Varren. You’re all fleshy and pale, and you desperately want love and attention, sorry to say.”  I’m not offended, but rather surprised at such an musing observation, he continues. 

 “But to feel that type of human craving, it’s odd, makes me feel like I’ve had someone crawl into my skin and take me out of it, and everything just feels - warmer.” his shoulders slump, and I don’t know. The kiss we shared didn’t seem insincere and Kurt didn’t seem to be fighting it, and the evening we spent together - he seemed to be enjoying it. 

Then I remember I am as odd to him as he is to me, and we’ve yet to fully acclimate to one another.  Maybe if I am to grow a tail to make the transition easier? No, I think he dreads my legs just fine.

 “We don’t have your concept of love, something light and sweet but ultimately fickle and fading. We have - I don’t know, it just runs deeper, it’s not a love for another person, it’s a love for something like another part of yourself. That other is simply an extension of you, and the reverse.”

 So, I prod. “Is that what you view us as? A two-way extension?” he looks up, bemused and biting at his lip. He doesn’t answer.  

 He turns back and I hoist him into the cart again, “Is the life in Germany a lonely one? In that river with just you?”

 He shakes his head, “Not always.” 

“And when it is?”, he looks down for a moment and I push the cart back out of the brush.

 “I remember what I am and that I wasn’t made to have a heart or feel for anyone besides the one I am bonded with. So there’s nothing to cry for.” I don’t ask about the kiss, if it meant anything to him, so I simply kiss him more when we get home to see his reaction. He is new to this, and if we can hold on to these last couple weeks, I will make sure he comes somewhat into his own.

 When we make it back Betsy is missing from my bed and Kurt lifts himself into the tub. I fill it with fresh water and kiss his forehead, to which he responds with a claiming one on the lips and I’m nearly pulled into the tub with him. He laughs and I roll my eyes at him. The clock reads nearly five in the morning and I bid Kurt a good night, to which snorts and I collapse on the bed. 

 If he hates my kisses, I remain blissfully unaware and I am convinced he doesn’t want the painfully deep bonding he told me about at the River, but rather an experience, something to give him direction.

 That only pains me just the slightest. 

 


 

 When I feel a multitude of slaps to my face is when I finally wake up. Betsy is there, with half of her face swollen, but she is smiling nonetheless. I’m up immediately, despite being groggy and disoriented. 

 “Your Father requests to see you.”

  When ask her what happened to her face, she shakes her head and trembles and when I hold her shoulders she looks to the floor. “Bette, Betsy - he did this to you didn’t he? Why?”

 “He said I shouldn’t sleep in your bed, that place was reserved for whores of quality and not greedy maids.” she spat, and looked up to me, I ran my finger over her swollen cheek and she flinched. “I’m so sorry, Bette, if I’d known - “ she shushes me and smiles, though sadly. “Not your fault, it’s never your fault.” she said. Damn it, she is too kind.

“ I’ll put some cream on it once I’m done with him, what do you have to do now?” 

 “I have to polish the floor.”

 “Go rest in parlor.” I tell her sternly, but not rudely. “I’ll be down, at best - you’ll be left with a bruise. Not much to mar such a heavenly face.”

 She giggles, though the stretching of her mouth pains her and she grimaces shortly after, I worry my lip and pat her shoulder.

  Bette leads me down the hall again and gives a rigid curtsy before guiding out a woman from my father’s office, nearly running down the stairs in her haste.  I’m left to him, smoking his pipe thoughtfully, the woman’s face is downcast and sullen. She’s just another client, another life he’s just choked out. 

 “I heard of your presentation.” his face is relaxed and he’s leaned back, my fingers unroll from their firsts and the color drains from my face. “From whom?”

 He chuckles, “I went to Hollow’s long before you did. You act as if I’m still not there in some way. Everyone knows about the Worthington boy  and his man-eating monster-fish now, and that he’s run off presumably back to Germany with it. I’ve not denied the rumors, though.”

 Of course everyone knew, a rumor like that was just what Hollow’s loved. Dishonor and embarrassment was what everyone thrived on just as much as they did their father’s money. I was a bit relieved that everyone had thought I’d fled to Germany, thinking Peter had been the one to tell them that to begin with. 

 “So, what? You want me to go back, apologize? After Ku-” I stop myself, Father doesn’t know Kurt can talk (I hope) much less if he has a name.  “After my fish bit off a man’s hand? Is he even still alive?” I ask, genuinely worried. 

 Father shakes his head, “Barely, lost a lot of blood, would’ve died right there had they not had him stitched soon after you left, after he gets over the slight fever and phantom pain, he is expected to make a full recovery. But whether or not he plans on pressing charges - ” I exhale. Thank God, Kurt - you’ve not killed anyone, you’re not a murderer. Thank God. I glance behind me as if he is right there and compose myself. 

Father grins again, “Well, I hope you publish soon, because he’s not going to be suing me, Warren.” he goes over to his crystalline scotch bottle, pouring it out himself. “But now I’m more concerned on where to go from there. Your speech, or so I heard was - exceptional. One of your professors told me, the dark-skinned one.”

 “Professor Nur?” I asked, eyes widening, he nodded. “Yes, yes.  Told me that though you are: quote ‘young, ignorant, and reckless as all hell’ you speak well beyond your years.” my heart’s pounding, at least it hadn’t been a complete disaster? And Professor Nur, calling me exceptional, a man who’d made so many achievements in the field of biology and engineering (and some amateur philosophy and psycho-theology that left me to ponder) if I were to list them, I’d run out of pages in this blasted book.

 He sees my obvious surprise and glee and smiles, and I think I see a hint of pride in him, and I’m unsure if I’ve died. After the night spent with Kurt and now seeing some inkling of acceptance from the man I loathe, I fear I’ve surely died.

 “But what now?” he asks, finishing off the last of his scotch and reaching for the bottle again, “What do you mean?” 

 “The fish, you’ve made no attempts to contact Hollow’s, nor any institute all across London. Is this it?”

 My eyebrows furrowed, “I didn’t realize you actually wanted me to succeed.” “I honestly didn’t but until I heard you found yourself a Biting Beast from Germany, I knew you would get far.” he gets up again, coming around his desk.

Strangely, what I notice is my father has a lot of gray hair, though it’s well hidden in swept back dark locks, when the bleak light of the dreary afternoon hits it, there is a distinctness in the dozens of strands of white and it seems the closer to get to me - every step is like ten years pass on his face.

 “He isn’t a Biting Beast,” I spit out at him. He appears to be a thousand years old, and I may only be a child - but Kurt and beast are not to be used in the same sentence unless they are negating each other, and I am quick to the defense. “I simply haven’t decided yet, I perhaps may just send him back to Germany at the end of the month if I’ve not come up with a solution.”

 His leer falls, “Are you a fool?” “Yes, I’m awfully proud of it .” “Why send him back? The amount people would pay, whether it be swimming in water or formaldehyde, the profits are unimaginable.” Father knows the ‘it’ spites me, but the connotation of his latter statement and all the air leaves my lungs before I feel them catch fire.

 “Absolutely not.” I say, there’s no hesitation, my hands balled into fists and he grins, because this is how he’s used to seeing me, angry and ready tear his limbs from him (pardon to Kurt) and he relishes in it. “I will not sell him, alive or dead. It’s cruel and inhumane to a creature who has gifted me nothing but kindness, and insight into a world I knew nothing of.”

 “It is an animal, a fairy tale you pulled from a murky river. It knows no kindness, all it knows is to eat, to kill and to multiply and by god, if you’ve grown attached, there’s probably a hundred more in that river just like it.”

 “There aren’t!” I scream through gritted teeth, I want to tell him Kurt is a priceless rarity, and to put a price on him would be degrading, he is a gem not meant to be bought and sold or even gawked at by those blinded by greed or disgust, he is to be held close and gazed upon with wonder and bemusement. Kurt is meant to make one feel small and vulnerable. 

  Father slams his hands down on the desk, “You’re speaking as if it was a human.” I can’t deny this, I already told Kurt he wasn’t human and I would accept that with no trouble, but father - oh, I want to toss him from the window behind him. But I don’t move, I’m shaking, and my face begins to fluah.

 “He isn’t human, but he isn’t some animal to be traded, and so I refuse to trade him.” he sighs, heavy, disappointment laden in it as he rubs at his temples.  “So all this money I’ve spent on tuition, and yet you refuse to so much as think as suffocating the bloody creature and selling the cadaver to a museum that takes these types of oddities. Forget your findings, your rosy glow of the future -  if he is truly such a ‘conception of the gods’.” he mocks me, “Then do it. Sell him, trade him and offer a monthly rent to those that seek to display him, museums, vaudeville, private owners - this can be so lucrative.”

  I grow closer to him, stalking - really, my voice low and my fingers scratching against the polished oak. I am eye level with him and my face possibly takes up his whole line of vision. 

Good.

 “Kurt will not be sold, you bastard. I will send him back to Germany by the end of this month, and then I will leave, I will leave this house and I will take Betsy and I will be happy, knowing I’ve made him happy after what I’ve done and how I’ve treated him, and you will never hear from me again, old man. I swear it on Mummy’s grave. I bloody swear it.”

 I lean back and turn on my heel to go out of the door, that’s when he asks, that’s when my blood runs cold.

 “Kurt? You’ve named him?”

  “He had his own name long before I met him.” I growl, he snickers. “I do believe you’ve gone too far, whatever water has logged your brain, you best bloody hope it doesn’t farther cloud your reasoning. If that’s who you were talking with that night, who you were yelling at, and who you so doggedly returned to apologize to - then by God, boy.” he takes another sip and I’m turning and cursing myself.

  “I would have you put into put into Bedlam for not only being an invert, but for damn bestiality!”

 The punch is swift, right into the nose, and I’m gone. The one moment I thought there was something good in him, I was reminded my father is greedy and depraved and bloody infuriating. I go downstairs and Betsy is on the chaise, watching the birds that perch on the windowsill.

 She turns to me, notices my bloody fingers, and she doesn’t speak. In those eyes blue as the summer sky, she knows. She knows. Betsy knows everything. 

 “Are you alright?” she nods, I go upstairs to fetch some medicine from my room and I see Kurt still sleeping. Thankfully unaware, I kiss him again. My treasure, my gem, mine, mine, mine. 

 I make my way downstairs and try to help the swelling of Betsy’s face.

 Mine. Mine. Mine. 

 


 

 Kurt didn’t wake until later on that evening, I’m guessing because he hadn’t slept in nearly two days. Father had just ushered out his last client of the day, and Betsy was tidying up after dinner, I’d requested she not cook for me, as I was in too much of a state to eat. Father’s words still ringing in my ears, 

‘Whether he be swimming in water or formaldehyde.’

 I should’ve bloody shot him right in front of his oak desk. I should’ve done it, I looked over to Kurt still looking sleepy, but putting his hand out of the window and letting the rain drip onto it. Twisting his palm over, feeling it as if this were the last time he’d see it.

 I’m thankful he hadn’t heard the argument, though Hackney probably heard it when it was in its peak. But Kurt, I couldn’t imagine it. I couldn’t cage him any more or sell him like cattle and to see his corpse, stitched and discolored, the vibrant blue of his skin sickly and tinted from the chemicals of the formaldehyde, and those yellow eyes forever closed. If that was to be his funeral - and my tearful farewell, I’d rather not be in attendance.

 I looked up from my book, more H.G. Wells, and glanced over at him with soft eyes before walking into the washroom. Our conversations would have to be quieter now, as Father would’ve been listening.

  “Do you still want to go out tonight?” I asked, he rubbed at his eyes, and I caught a small glimpse of the red eyelid peeling backwards as he opened his eyes slowly again.

 “No, no - I’m fine, this is fine.” he gave me a small smile and stretched. “I slept all day?” “Surprisingly, yes.” he sighed, “Did I miss anything important?” “The slow and painful death that you so miraculously saved me from.”

 “Cause of death?”

 “Seeing you sleep.” he snorted and laughed, and as much I hated to, I shushed him, though his laughter was one of the sweetest things to my ears. Next to Betsy’s giggle and my mother playing her violin when I was younger, and also the sound of a typewriter. 

 “Kurt, mine? I’ve ghastly news.” Kurt looked up, giving me another kiss. “Yes?”

 I take in a deep breath as I pull away, “Kurt, I’m sorry, but you may have to go back to Germany sooner than I thought.”

 Kurt’s eyebrows furrowed, he wasted to go back yes, but it was the shock of t happening so soon. “Why? What happened?”

 “No. Nothing happened, but - I fear my Father knows of our secret. Of you and what you are, someone at the College must’ve told him.” my voice low, so quiet that even if you were to stand right against the closed washroom door, there’d be nothing to hear. 

 Kurt’s eyes widened and his gills opened and closed rapidly. “So they know? They know about us?” 

“Not all of London, thankfully, but I fear if I am to keep you here too long, he will do something -” I searched for the word “Particularly beastly.”  he doesn’t need me to elaborate, I see him run a clawed finger along his neck as if reminding himself that it is, in fact, still attached to the rest of him. 

 Kurt slumped against the porcelain, his eyes moving back and forth as if reading over everything I’d said. “What have they said about me?” “I’d rather not repeat it.” I rubbed his shoulder and he placed a hand over it. 

 “When then, when do we leave?”

 “Apparently the whole school thinks we’ve gone back to Germany already, but the earliest boat, I swear you.” my voice is desperate and his eyes are searching mine for some hint of denial or mirth, and he finds nothing of the sort.

 I don’t wish to do this him, but I can’t tell his of father’s thought and of his damned words. I can’t have him be afraid.

 “What does he want with me?”

 “Money, most likely, and to spite me.” I frown, and his eyes are downcast but he tries not to show much emotion and I can see through the facade. He’s weary, this has happened too recently, a wound being torn right open long before it can scab properly; this ended in a missing hand my mother returning from the dead to tell me what an arse I am. 

 I will not repeat the Biting Beast bit to him, nor all the ways Father described Kurt, because such words should never be said directly to him. 

 At this thought, I realize I am but a fool and now a hypocrite. 

 “I’m sorry.” I say, but he shakes his head and leans into my chest. “There wasn’t anything you could do, they would’ve found out, he would’ve found out eventually.” he says, his tone is flat and detached.

 “Kurt, mine?” I coo, and he looks up and tries to stammer it out.

 “I wanted to go back, but - “ he begins, I shush him

“I know, I know, treasure. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” I kiss his temple and I wish I’d never said anything to him, wish I’d never let what Father told me rip into this tiled sanctuary. I hold Kurt until Betsy comes in, and when I tell her, she looks fit to mourn the loss of Kurt before he has even left.

 I will head to the docks tomorrow, and find the next boat leaving for Cuxhaven or Wilhelmshaven, but tonight I will hold my Kurt, my treasure, mine, mine, mine. 

In short: Secrets, like anger and misconceptions, will never last lifetimes.


 It is late now, the clock reads three and I’m sitting on the washroom floor. Kurt and I are silent and he catches rain in his hands again and plucks more sweetbriars from the window box. We don’t speak, we simply fill each other’s space until we are both completely surrounded by one another and in this shattered sanctuary, the comfort is little but welcomed. 

 I’ve asked him several times throughout the evening if he is alright, and he responds with a nod, the only sound he makes is the shuffle of his weight squeaking against the porcelain, or a small melody that sounds forlorn and hopeless.

 “Your markings are beautiful.” I say, “Like someone spent years carving them into you, making them so lovingly and intricately.” I say.

 Kurt smiles, although it is sad, “Someone did.”

 “Who?”

 “I did, I had to. We all have our ways of coping with loneliness, mine just resulted in something you feel is beautiful.” 

 I want to ask, want to tell him that he need not to scar himself, but the marks look old, though some are a bit raised around the edges because of their newness. 

 I read him another poem, I’ve written, my first since the night before we left for Hollow’s.

And yet my rage is gone, the apologies in their vaults

 and my raging, loving one is left to recount (their own)

 their sins are invisible, and their words pure

and they are torn apart (for naught, for naught, for naught)

oh what a spiteful god we serve!

 

 my love knows no spite, my love carries not greed

my love, though raging, is light and made of jewels

 my love is a saint, blessed and divine

 they are god’s final masterpiece (raging, raging, raging)

 and yet i have stolen them to be mine

 

 they dance on pure starlight, they have indeed hung the moon

 they are scorned and cursed and burned and struck

 in their rarity, desecrated, in purity violated

 and am i the instigator?  (my hands, my hands, my hands)

 i have done this to them, their being annihilated

 

 for those who killed my love i will loathe (but forgive to ease my soul)

for those few who love them, i hold in good grace

 to my mother, i have failed her 

and to my love, who tore me apart (as i have done to them)

 i will rage on, and on, and on. “

 

In the flickering light of a couple dozen candles, Kurt looks warm, soft.

 But also he looks so very small. 

 

 May 17th, 1906

 I returned from the docks while it was still morning, and denying that with about a few pounds I’d effectively ended my time with Kurt; not my of volition or even his, but because of my Father, who’d championed it. It was a a worthy sacrifice, and I thought that I shouldn’t even go directly home after leaving Germany. Maybe I could bring Betsy with me, let her get away from the crowded city and the insufferable townhouse of Clephane Road, let her see the spring in the hillside and the river as it just starts to rush, afterwards, take her to see her mother and younger brothers in Scotland and still return home with a good amount of summer left.

 It is a childish dream, if Betsy doesn’t work, she doesn’t get paid, and her family will go hungry, as I remember her mother being ‘married to whiskey’ as Betsy put it, and unable to hold a job for very long and her brothers left to starve in the streets. I hate it really, in order to give Betsy happiness and reprieve she must risk the welfare of the only blood she knows. 

 I sigh, because she is too young to carry such weight on her shoulders, too kind and too bright and I smile as she calls me in from the kitchen once I arrive home. 

 The Date of May 23rd will forever pain me, for it is when I will have to part with him.

 “This, try this!” Betsy pushes a cake into my mouth, it nearly melts, and sticks to the roof of my mouth. “Honey cakes, I call them. Mr. Worthington said he wanted something with that Spanish vanilla, but I was too scared to tell him we’d run out, and I’d no time to run out to the shop all the way in Chalk Farm,  so dumped out a load of honey and used the same recipe. How’d they taste?”

 “Lovely, Bette, simply stellar.” I grinned, though it came out sounding muffled due to the stickiness of her treat, she beamed and when I managed (with great difficulty) to swallow it down, she gave me a small napkin with four more of them wrapped up.

 “Betsy, you’re a bloody saint, you are, but I couldn’t take them from you.”

 “Well, they’re not for me, your father has a guest.”

  Guest? Father never has guests, he has clients.“But you never make anything for his clients, what’s it now?” she shakes her head, “No, he said just after you left earlier that he wanted tea and Spanish vanilla cakes for his guest. I bet he cleared all his clients for the day, too.” 

 She loaded the rest of the honey cakes unto a silver tray, along with the tea and I tried not to think much of it. “Come, I’ll let you in the office, you seem to have your hands full.” I smiled, Betsy nodded her thanks and we were off up the stairs and down the opposite end of the corridor.

 I didn’t speak as I pushed open the door for her, holding the napkin of honey cakes in my one hand. But Father seemed to be engaged in deep conversation with a man dressed in a tailored gray Italian suit.

 “Your cakes, sir. Sorry for the wait.” Father grunted, but the guest gave her his kindest gratitude, placing a few pounds into her hands. “What’re you doing that for, Nur? I already pay the damn girl.”

 “She’s young, Worthington. If someone is kind enough to give her money out of kindness rather than pay, it would be criminal for her to deny it.” he smiled sweetly towards her and Betsy, giving a rushed (yet happy) thank you before bobbing her curtsey and ushering herself out. 

 I waited until she left before realizing that Professor bloody Nur was sitting in my Father’s office and chatting with him, as if the catastrophe on Monday never happened, and he was simply here to smoke, drink and reminisce as Peter and I had done.

 “Warren! I was just telling your father about Egypt, lovely country, my home is. Have you been?” he said, his voice was booming, yet cheerful and I tried to clam my breathing. “No, Professor. Can’t say I’ve ever traveled outside of Europe, sir.”  he said with a small smile and he chuckled, Father did too, though it was easy to see through it, it was as if he was angry I’d come in.

 “Professor Nur, I’m dreadfully sorry about the presentation, and I know you must be horrified and ashamed and you wish you had never attended.” he raised a finger and my rambling was silenced. “Modesty, not many men your age have it. But it is ill-placed, despite the carnage, I adored your presentation, Warren and I was wondering if you have the specimen with you today?”

 Well, damn. 

 “No.” I said, though it came out sounding rushed and sharp. “I’ve released it into the Thames, sorry sir. I find that some things need not be kept in captivity.” his face fell and as did my stomach.

  He tutted his tongue, “Empathetic, too. Your father raised you well, my boy.” he smiled, and against his dark skin his teeth were gleaming white. I shrug, folding my hands behind my back. “I accredit it to my mother, Professor. Rest her soul.” I smile, and he laughs one of his big laughs again.

 “That’s good, Warren, splendid. But I did want to see that Creature again, though not too close, though, I do love having my hands.” I smiled, though my eyebrows narrowed and in Father’ s face he knew I didn’t like the comment, but Professor Nur was brilliant and he told lovely stories, I wouldn’t fault him for making such an assumption if it had reason behind it.  

 “Professor, I would love to stay and hear you and my Father’s riveting talks, but there is some Wells I should return to.” he smiles again and waves me off, “Never change yourself, Warren. Never change.” I take one glance back, see my Father’s still swollen nose, and I don’t see a word. 

 I close the door to my room and let out the air that had been caught in my throat the entire conversation, and the honey cake churns in my stomach as I take the rest to Kurt. 

 Thankfully, Kurt is awake and judging by the bones and bloody spatter on the floor, Betsy has already fed him for me. “Good morning, treasure.” I say quietly, he smiles. “Guten morgen, Engel.” his voice sweet and I kiss his cheek (he turns slightly purple at this).

 “Betsy gave me these, I don’t know if you’d care for them.” he examines the small yellowish square in my hands and takes a bite, eyes going wide as the honey threatens to stick his mouth together, and he chews it slowly.

 “Very interesting texture.” he says, though it takes me a moment to understand and I laugh as he reaches for another one. “These could suffocate someone, Betsy knows that, doesn’t she?” 

 I shrug, “Perhaps she plans to kill Father out of spite, I won’t exactly deny her the luxury.” Kurt snorts and tries not to choke on the sticky things. I let the tickets for the boat slip into my coat pocket and I go to dump it on the bed. I don’t show them to him, but instead, the moment I come back, he’s shoving the last honey cake into his mouth and wide-eyed as if he’d just been caught at the seen of a murder.

 I smile and laugh and Kurt visibly tries to chew all of them at once, and finally gives up.

 “You’ll be picking honey out of your fangs for hours.” I snark at him, he rolls his eyes and soon tri-fingered hands are pulling me up for a sugar-laced kiss. I feel him push some of the honey cakes into my mouth with his tongue, before pulling away and staring at me slyly. 

 I try to chew them and note that they now taste like Kurt’s mouth along with the sickeningly-sweet cakes, and he looks back at me. “Better?” he manages to say.

 I give up and sigh, chuckling “Why does everything me and you do end in trouble?” he smiles and shrugs, gazing back out the window. 

 I still laugh whenever he attempts to chew them. 

 


I do love reading to Kurt, as he says ‘you make the stories seem as if I had really been there to see them’ and ‘you have a rather comforting voice’. I decline the compliments, but Kurt doesn’t care and he relaxes back in the porcelain and plays with the sweetbriars that float around his tub.  Nearly an hour later, as I’m reading aloud to Kurt ‘Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth’ there is a knock on the door. 

 I rush to open it, and there is Professor Nur, standing and grinning his big white grin again, and it’s infectious, I think, because I smile right with him. “I presume, you’re leaving now, sir?” I ask, he nods. 

 “Tragically, yes, as much as I enjoy your Father’s talks, I am afraid I’m beginning to overstay my welcome.” he smiled. I shook my head, “Nonsense, sir!” I pause when I realize I may have said that too loudly,  “Well - what I mean is, not that you can’t leave, but don’t think we’re pressuring you do so.” he laughs regardless. “And a bit of hospitality, my, will you go far.” 

 I smile and try not to notice Father at the other end of the corridor, watching as if waiting for me to say something equally as moronic. “I am sorry for your Creature, Warren, not many would’ve been so empathic towards it.” he said, “It’s no trouble, it was the right thing to do.” 

 “And so kind! Goodness, boy, are you trying to make me look like a sinner?” I laugh and from his back pocket he pulls an envelope. Scrawled in loopy, crooked handwriting is the word ‘Worthington’ and in parenthesis is the Roman numeral ‘lll’.

 It’s money, it has to be, Professor Nur pities me and my misplaced kindness that had overrun such ambition, and I feel a bit embarrassed. “Sir?” I ask, “I feel that you are a great young man, one who I will undeniably see disproving every other marine biologist with findings no one even so well-versed in the matter will be able to discount. I see in your greatness as much as I see in you the words of a poet.” he pulls me into a bone-crushing hug. “Never change, my boy. For the love of God, never change.”

 I laugh, though it sounds breathless and raspy, “Professor, thank you, thank you. I will try, I will, if only to impress you and a house full of old books and even older people.” he laughs and claps my back, “I suspect to be hearing back from you soon, yes?” he asks.

  “In due time, sir. In due time.” he grins and steps away, Father following him downstairs and I close the door to my room again. “Are you sure the Creature is out of your grasp?” he calls from he steps, I reopen the door  and nod. “Yes, sir. I’m sorry to say.” he only smiles, “There’s greater fairy tales waiting to be found, don’t get hung on one voracious fish.” he laughs, I chuckle, albeit uneasily and shut the door again. 

 “Who was that?” Kurt asks when I return to the washroom, I smile “One of my old Professors, you saw him at the presentation.” Kurt nods and rolls his eyes, “I don’t like him.”.

 “He’s a good man, a bit too jovial, but brilliant and good all the same.” Kurt scoffs. “He called me a voracious fish.” 

 “We’re not going over this again, Kurt. The man doesn’t know you as I know you, you need not worry about what he calls you.” 

 Kurt wants to argue but he decides against it, instead noticing the envelope I’ve been turning over in my hands. “What’s that?” 

 “Money, perhaps.” I said, “I told him I released you into the Thames, I’m guessing he feels sorry for me.” “For what? For not killing me?”. I turn back to him, his canary eyes bright and wide and I shrug, “I suppose. I understand your worth and value, and the fact that I’ve done nothing with you makes him feel sorry for me, I hope he doesn’t view me as incompetent.” 

 “He views you as a foolish child.”

 “Well I am.” I tear open the envelope with the edge of my fingernail. Reading aloud to Kurt: 

“To Warren the Second,

 Since I had you in my lecture hall four years ago, you were one of the students that still continued to linger in my mind long after I’d left back for Cairo. There was something about you, your ambition, your undeniable standard for greatness that you had set for yourself, your ability to challenge even the greatest of minds in your field. Contrary to the common belief, I did not think your presentation was terrible by any stretch of the mind, and with such delightful prose in its preamble, I was hopelessly enraptured with not only you but your but heavenly, yet hellish German Nightmare (there’s been quite a few nicknames for it going around Hollow’s, but I prefer this one - gives it a more exotic aura) and despite the carnage, I in no way blame you for the whole event turning into a debatable mess. I have no doubt in mind that your life will be one that history won’t forget, and your achievements will outnumber the stars in the sky or the amount of scales that lined your Creature so beautifully.

 With that said and revered, I wish that you have some solace from the troublesome and daunting field work you’ve done over the past few weeks, and so - I am asking you to be my guest at this year’s Mannion Ball, where you can revel in what you’ve done with some of the most brilliant people from across Europe. It is not only honorary, but I suppose out of necessity. There aren’t many that can say they’ve semi-tamed a Creature like that, if they’ve tamed it at all, and not many that can stand so humbly in the face of tiny men that will judge them not only of their characters and findings - but of their self worth. Warren, I pray you accept this invitation, as I believe you deserve it more than any other to be in attendance at Vauxhall Gardens on Saturday at seven. I will be at your house with a carriage if you chose to accept, and we will ride over together.

 Please to telegram me if you plan to go. And never change, my boy.   

 Graciously,

 Professor En Sabah Nur ”

 It took me no time to bolt from the washroom and rush downstairs, “Professor,  yes, I accept!” I grinned, just as he was getting into his carriage. He laughed, “Eagerness, you’ve made a devil out of me, you have.” he went to close the door, “It would be an honor sir, to be in the presence of such prestige.”

 Professor Nur glanced over at my Father who only rolled his eyes. “It will be a world you will enter very soon, Warren. Best give you an introduction while it’s in finery.” he closed the door and my cheeks hurt from grinning.

 I waved to him as his Carriage pulled off of Clephane and looked over to my Father, who was already going back inside the house. I clutched the envelope in trembling hands before slamming the door and racing back inside. 

 The Mannion Ball, oh god, I could’ve died right there on the washroom floor. My bloody professor who had more accolades than I had years alive, inviting me to such an event. 

 Kurt tired to ask me about five different questions but I could barely hear him, my whole body was crawling with ants, and my heart was beating like a frightened horse.

 I needed to find a bloody suit

 


 

 Betsy came up with freshly laundered clothes not long after. “I quite like this Professor of yours, Warren.” she said, she was smiling too. “Listen to this.” she jiggled the pocket of her apron and there was the slide and clink of dozens of coins from inside. “What’re you so smiling so dopey about?”

 “The Mannion Ball.” Kurt replied flatly, as I read over the letter from the tenth time. “A Ball?” Betsy asked incredulously.

  “I know! Philosophy, biologists, chemists and all of that ilk - all gathered to be honored as they are so deserved, and Professor Nur does’t even need to be invited, but he acts as if the Ball cannot function without him there, I believe there’d be a certain emptiness to it.”

 Betsy ran to hug me, “Warren, that’s beautiful! Are you being honored?” I shrugged, “I doubt it, but it’s the being a guest, the feeling that you’re in the company of such esteemed creatures, I need no award for that.”

 She mussed my curls before rising and returning to her folding. “You’ll need a good suit, Warren. Not the rich man’s rags to trapeze around in.” “I do not trapeze.” I replied, though she only waved me off.

 “She’s right, Engel.” Kurt mumbled and I chuckled and shook my head. “The two of you are set to kill me, aren’t you?” Betsy laughed. “Of course, Warren.” 

  Kurt turned to look down at me, and I had outstretched his arm that had been dangling out from the tub, “You especially.” I whispered, holding his hand, and kissing it, he laughed and told me to stop, but I only continued my trail of kisses up his arm, lingering especially when I reached the juncture of his collarbone and neck.

 Kurt was turning purple and giggling and trying to cover his mouth, I shushed him in between kisses, muttering things like “Right death of me, you’ll be - you’ll tear me right in two, but I can’t imagine a more beautiful way to go.” and making him laugh even harder.

 Betsy scoffed and pretended to gag, “I’m right sick of you, I am. You’re sickening, the both of you.” 

 I laugh and Kurt pulls me in for another kiss, fangs just grazing my bottom lip. “Oh, ich werde dich töten, ind ich werde es genießen, menschlich.” he drawled and I felt a shudder roll down my spine.

 

  May 19th, 1906 

 By this very Saturday afternoon, I was mostly vibrating with excitement. Kurt, who was still a bit upset that I was going to the Mannion Ball given the exact reason for my invitation, and Betsy, who’d been all atwitter about finding me a suit for the evening. I told her the one that I’d worn to Hollows’ Winter Benefit Gala about two years ago would be fine, despite her fuss I should buy something new. It had grown a bit tighter, but nothing an hour and a sewing machine couldn’t fix. It was a deep royal blue, and after the dust balls had been cleaned from it, looked at radiant as ever and it hung proudly on the back of my door, the blazing white of the  shirt beneath it making it all the more eye-catching. 

 “You’ll be a handsome one you, most handsome one on the floor.” said Betsy early that afternoon after I’d returned from retrieving Kurt some more pastries from the bake shop a few blocks over as he’d grown rather fond of (and addicted to) sweets after the honey cake debacle and next to his raw meat, it became the only thing he ate.

 “I’d take you with me, Betsy, you know how I hate to leave you home with such dazzling events taking place.” Betsy shook her head, smiling her kind smile, “I couldn’t go even if I wanted to, and it’s fine - balls and finery don’t suit me. I would much refer if the whole event was some tea party in a nice greenhouse in the country.” 

 I smiled and Kurt remained silent, gnawing on some Italian-Something-Or-The-Other “All a bunch of self-important Schwanzes getting drunk and congratulating each other, you’re better than this.” he grumbled.

 “Am I?” I replied back, looking for an acceptable pair of shoes. “Darling,” I sighed and Kurt shrugged, “I’m not lying.” me and Betsy exchanged looks before returning back to our talk.

 “Kurt, do you mind Betsy staying with you for the night?”  asked, Kurt’s eyes narrowed, “Im not a child,” he said, “I don’t need Betsy to watch me.”

 “But I’ll just keep you company, I won’t watch you.” she smiled and Kurt looked at me with pleading eyes, “I thought the two of you got along.” I asked, “But Warren, you shouldn’t go. The entire reason you even have an invitation is that man‘s desire to see me and not getting it, he feels sorry for you.” 

 “And if he does? I will not deny him, I’ll go to the Ball and revel.” I smiled and Kurt took a noter bite of one of his pastries , the red filly gushing out at his fangs and he licked at it. “Fine, human.” 

 I shook my head and tries to kiss him only to be blocked by a lemon teacake that he held to my lips.

 “I don’t like his flavor.” he murmured, and shoved it in my mouth. Betsy didn’t even bother looking up from her dusting. 

 “It’s delicious, darling Kurt.” I said, lips just barely touching his, he kissed me again, savoring the taste of my now lemon-flavored mouth.

 “It’s disgusting.” he whispered when he pulled away though he wore a breathless smile. 

 “Simply wretched.


 

 The carriage arrived a little after six and after I’d washed up (in the guest bathroom, of course, though Kurt seemed to have no qualms with me taking a bath with him) and donned the suit. Betsy fastened a few of the sweetbriars from Kurt’s tub to the jacket. “It was my idea, so you’d still keep him with you.” Kurt’s ears lowered and he blushed as I smiled at him from my room.

 “You get off in two hours, yeah?” she nodded, “Well, an hour and forty-eight minutes.” I rolled my eyes, “Make sure the old goat doesn’t die on us, and make sure my treasure remains divine.” I put a few more pounds in her hand and she accepted with a smug grin. “Bring home more fish-boys, it seems to only bring me more pay.”

 “And it brings me all the more heartache.” I murmured, turning back to Kurt who was just about finishing Wuthering Heights and had my copy of ‘The Food of the Gods and How It came to Earth’ sitting beside him on the windowsill.

 I walked into the washroom and kissed his cheek, “You alright, dove?” he hummed, “We could’ve gone back to the park tonight.” his voice dripping with disappointment. “Tomorrow, darling, but the hours spent away will only make me want to return to you more.” I nipped at his wear and saw him bite his lip in a poorly-hidden blush.

 “I’ll be back later on, yes?” I kissed him on the lips this time, the lingering taste of blood still heady in my youth but i could care less.

 “Come back to me, liebling, so I can cause you all types of heartache.” he smiled and in those wild, golden eyes - I could see his warmth, his affection.

 If it was love, it did him well and made him simply shine. 

 We shared in another kiss, but I dared not utter the words, only lightly tracing my finger along his ears. 

 “Have fun, Engel.” and he turned back to his book, I took a final glimpse back at him from my bedroom door, before going downstairs and out to the waiting carriage. 

 “Goodnight, my Lady Elizabeth.” I bowed to Betsy as she let me out, “Go raise hell, ya bloody idiot.” she smiled and I went to kiss her cheek before I was stopped, “Does it still hurt?” I asked, though her face had been healing just fine. “No, just don’t want my face smellin’ like fish.”

 “You little devil, you.” I gave her a quick peck despite her protests and waved goodbye to her as the a carriage pulled away.

 “Good evening, Professor. Sorry for my lateness, I had to say goodbye.” 

 He only smiled, “Trust me, boy - the evening will be simply dazzling.” and so we rode through London like a king and his beloved jester.


 

The ride from Canonbury to Vauxhall lasted about a half-hour, and the chatter was pleasant between myself and Professor Nur. His suit was black, and I idly thought that the man was possibly so huge it took three tailors to cut it properly. Not huge as in portly, but just massive in everything that he was, his laughter filled the small carriage and I chimed in with him. 

We even passed by the British Museum and Buckingham before finally taking the bridge over the Thames.  London, though crowded and generally sickening during the day, crawls with life at night, and out of darkness radiates its own beauty, and I curse myself as to why I stay in Canon bury when the sun goes down, only to remember of the one I’ve left behind in a bathtub reading Bronte and missing his home.

 It is a worthy sacrifice, and one I’lm willing to make.

  The venue was at a rented mansion’s hall near on the Vauxhall Gardens grounds, with the other end of the road overlooking the Thames. We step off the carriage and Professor Nur nearly has to lead me by the hand into the building, he walks with a cane, though he doesn’t need it, and when our invitations are accepted at the door I go in on legs I doubt will be able to carry me the entire night. 

When I enter, there is a wave of sound and color and it is as if I have mistakenly gone to Heaven and am now being greeted by an assortment of well-dressed angels.

 Men and women gathered along the seemingly golden hall that seemed to shimmer and sparkle in the light of about fifteen chandeliers. There is the clinking of plates and stemware, and the murmuring hum of a hundred voices talking at once, towards one end of the hall, there are couples dancing and at the tables everyone is talking. Ladies dressed in so many jewels I fear that their earlobes will be permanently lowered by their earrings, and men that I do and do not recognize are scattered about the place. I don’t realize I’m standing with agape towards the corner of the room until Professor  Nur nudges me with the butt of his cane. 

 “Table five they put us at, do you believe it? After all the money I’ve donated and I couldn’t even get seated next to the ensemble.” he rolls his eyes, the little gathered band of strings and and woodwinds had settled a lilting melody around us all, incased in gold and serenaded with Schumman and Wagner, and making merry with well drinks and mutton and potatoes that were practically fermenting in butter.

I am dead, I tell myself, I am convinced I have died

I sat besides him, our table now full. I politely introduced myself to the woman sitting next to me. 

 Her face is youthful, yet dangerous and her hair is fiery red and matching her dress, “Jean Grey,” she says, her voice at low drawl and I sense it in something American, “Warren Worthington, how’d you manage to get invited if you’re not -”

 “I studied in Hungary.” she doesn’t let me finish, “Experimental physician.” she says, I nod. “Marine biology.” she smiles, and if she is mocking em I;’m clueless to it. “Charming endeavor, it is.” 

 “More so just very tedious.” I reply and she takes a sip of champagne.

 My foot is still excitedly tapping against the floor as I listen to the conversation. There’s a man next to her, Scott, who is blind, but the two are obviously close, it is ironic he specializes in optometry, but I don’t question it. Summers, his last name was, Summers.

 Though the others at the table are cordial and kind, especially a petite woman dressed in yellow with inky black hair that tells me she has served in field in East Asia, studying and living with the wildlife and we strike up conversation. Thoughts he has more travels under her than I, she doesn’t boast, and I laugh when she tells me of one of her pet gharial she kept during her time in Nepal, and how he would love to eat her clothes so much that the locals made new ones for her. To my surprise (or lack thereof) her name was Jubilation.

 Despite the group, it is the two men that sit on the other side and look almost uncomfortably close that draw me the most. It seems every time the conversation changes the two begin to debate as if they are a couple so tired of each other yet so well into their marriage and lives that they simply cannot bring themselves to separate anymore. One will disprove the other on the facts of how patients are treated in a asylums or the separation between man and animal and (this is hilarious) whether or not Erik (who has the same accent as Kurt, although not as thick) had left the door to their estate unlocked. 

 “If they live together,” I lean over toward Jean, “how are they to survive without the unavoidable threat of homicide?” Jean chuckles, “They don’t.” when I ask if she lives with them, she tells me it happened in a dream. But she goes on to say Charles (who isn’t German) is one of the most esteemed geneticists in Europe, and Erik, a chemist with a temper the size of Romania.

 And they argue like children, and no one tries to pull them away from each others throats because it’s too damned entertaining. Though Professor Nur butts in occasionally to comment on something either of them has said, but it usually ends up begin the other thinking that Nur is taking a side, and then it becomes personal. Summers eventually ends it and the table falls back into polite murmur, until Jean mentions something about birth defects or Jubilation slips in a comment about how human Indonesian otters can act especially with their mates, and I’m blushing. 

 The night is not as prestigious as I first thought, and we do talk about the more intelligent fields, but after the meal has been finished, and we’ve all drank and I’ve danced with Jubilation about four times (and nearly stepped on her toes during all of the sets) we act nearly like old friends reuniting after years of begin apart. 

 Except Charles and Erik, who still bicker, but instead of diffusing into blunt insults, it becomes laughter. 

 “But its understandable, though, there are undeniable similarities between man and ape, if are truly kin with them, there is an easy argument for it.” Charles says, turning to Erik.

 Erik rolls his eyes, “But if we are apes, why are we intelligent - why have we established so much dominance over the other species, what sets us aside?” Erik snaps back. Charles rubs at his chin, “Our drive, our willingness to go farther.”

 “Our superiority over them, our evolution, it’s written into us.” Charles rolls his eyes.“Please no more of this human superiority bunk at the table, it only brings you closer to the belief that those as enlightened as you shall inherit the world.”

 “And if I’m wrong to say they will?”

 “Than it is our job to enlighten those less fortunate, instead of casting them by the wayside.” 

 “You’re insufferable.” Erik retorts, though I see the hint of a smile on his face.

 “And you are exhausting.” Charles smiles back, and though the rest of the table is talking without them, I smile over towards them. Some moment’s later, Professor Nur looks up and nods over to someone I can’t see, “My ladies and gentlemen, I think it is time I go up.” 

 “Go up where?”

 “Well - if not to speak, they beg me to do this ever year, Warren. To enchant them.” I beam, “Good luck to you, sir.” he nods and is off, and even sitting down, he appears to be at least ten meters tall.

 With Professor Nur gone, I strike up a talk with Charles and Erik, who I find own a small estate/menagerie/orphanage out in Epsom and run it together.

 “I see you’re a philanthropist, sir and a menagerie? The children must love it.”

  “Well, its not a menagerie in the sense of animals.” Charles says, though his voice is uneasy, Erik rolls his eyes. “It’s a human menagerie.” My smile falls and my eyes widen, “Oh.” I say, not terrified but intrigued. Charles shakes his head, “Don’t go scaring him. But it’s not as awful as you think.” 

Erik cuts in again, “Cylocpian fetuses, Siamese twins, children with legs like a mermaid. All very macabre stuff.” 

 Charles sighs, “Erik is right, but, I don’t mind it. If it is my job to study mutations, I might as well devote an entire room of the estate to them and charge admission.”

 Legs like a mermaid, never thought I’d hear the words. “I’d love to see it, if you wouldn’t mind having me.” Charles and Erik turn towards each other as if considering if I will murder them on their own estate, and I notice Charles lean just slightly into Erik.

They are definitely both comfortably and uncomfortably close.

Charles then smiles, “Of course! 12 Christ Church Road, you can’t miss it, its a disgustingly large place, it is.”, though his eyes appear old and tired, his face is fresh and I nearly make the  mistake of thinking we are the same age.

 “The children do love it, don’t they Erik?” he turns to Erik and the other one smiles warmly towards him. “He is their mother, somewhat. I’m their father.” Erik says 

 “No, on Sundays you are their mother.” Erik chuckles and casts his arm about the back of the Charles’s chair. “Yes, smoking my pipe with Wanda on my lap, of course.” 

  I grin, “How many children?” “I think we just adopted our hundredth this past winter, but I’m not sure if Erik is willing to take in many more. It’s lovely though, almost like a school, too.” I’m floored, asking he can take care of nearly a hundred children with Erik and still have time to do such astounding work.

 “Well there’s the nannies and nurses, and the older children, if I can trust them. But the menagerie, that’s work - filled with it actually.” he chuckles and Erik whispers something to him, and he blushes, nudging him away and making Erik laugh.

I try to imagine it, they are and odd pair, but them lulling younger children to sleep whilst returning to nights of endless work, and Charles pouring over the two-headed fetus of a goat whilst Erik rambles on about chemicals a human superiority. 

 There is something distinctly familiar about the two of them and it makes me laugh. 

 My thoughts are interrupted to hear the distant twinkling of glass calling to attention the masses, and the ensemble ceasing to play. 

“Friends, Romans and countrymen,” it’s Professor Nur, and we all laugh and he begins to speak and I suppose for those few minutes, we were all lulled. He drew for pictures of a young boy in Cairo who dreamed that the world was not as it was on the surface, and he would need to go deeper, to tear it apart and turn it inside out to satisfy some hunger for what he didn’t know at the time. How all of us, not just us in the room, but all of us are both with that innate and animalistic hunger. Some of us, it is for that of books, or of beauty or love, and we surround ourselves for that which we hunger. But it is us, especially, men and women in the intellectual fields, who’s hunger may decide the the future of mankind, and may cause us to evolve even farther from our ape brethren, and I see Charles and Erik exchange a look.

 Everything feels light and feathery as we clap for him, way up on the balcony of the staircase. He was right, though, there would be an emptiness without his presence. On the balcony he seems almost fixed, and we are simply revolving about him. 

 “Now, my friends, in the midst of this, I have traveled in an attempt to satisfy, and I will give you all a glimpse, as one of my pupils had said - into the abyss and it has gifted with me something so chthonic yet so seraphic. There is something great wheeled next to him, covered in black. I smile a little at his nod towards me and I think Jubilation takes notice and nudges me. 

 “For those unready, I caution you.”

  Three men stand by him and I am ready to scream as the covering is pulled down.

 And I see wide, frightened red eyes, that claw desperately at the glass of the massive tank.

 “Curtesy of Sullivan Glassworks, the tank is. But if you are not given so easily, or perhaps enthralled too much, I implore you that this creature is owned by my partner and I, and if any of you would like the chance to own it, dead or alive, the bidding begins at fifty pounds.” 

 The crowd was in an aghast uproar, people craning to get a look, clamoring over each other with full coin purses and checks for the bid but I couldn’t take my eyes from Kurt. 

 “One hundred pounds!” I yelled, above the crowd, I had nowhere near that much on my person at the time, only a few shillings and pence.  But I screamed anyways, I needed him to hear.

 Oh, I wished Kurt had pulled him into the tank to drown him. I ran up the stairs and towards the balcony, pushing past the others there. “Kurt!” I yelled.

 I catch sight of him and my heart nearly breaks, there’s a few slashes on his arms, and dried blood on his nose, he must’ve struggled when they took him, he had to. And black marks dotting his front. The top of the tank is barred, and by the looks of it, sparking with electricity. 

 When he turns his back to me, I see more of the burns from his attempted escapes

  He looked at me, where I would be expecting anger, there was uninhibited fear, which was awful because when out was afraid he was also angry and ravenous.

 I his eyes, I see terror as if the whole room seeks to eat him alive.

 “Kurt,” I whisper, and our faces press against the glass, and I don’t see them watching I don’t hear their questioning, I just see my Kurt, incased in a tank and so damn petrified he can barely speak. 

 “You thief.” I hiss at Nur, who looked as if he’s no clue what I’m talking about, “My boy, I knew you’d see a hint of familiarity.” he smiles, “You know he is mine.” I snap back. 

 “I also know you’re a terrible lair, Warren. If you claimed to have thrown him in the Thames, why is it that you’ve made it so easy for us to find him, and if you didn’t want the world to see him and know what you’ve found, why present him?”

 “He isn’t yours, in all due respect, I lied to protect him. I made it obvious to my father that I didn’t want to sell him, what you’ve told these people is a lie, there’s to be no auction, he is coming home with me.”

  There’s noise from below, everyone confused, amazed and some having to  run out at the sight of Kurt, but I’m fixing to move the monstrous tank out myself as Kurt frantically bangs on it. There a loud popping sound and I turn toe see the end of his tail singed and he clutches it in pain.

 I should’ve died right there, I should’ve, but Professor Nur only laughs as if Kurt was simply an animal running in circles in a cage before banging its head against the sides of it. “No matter, if my hypothesis is right, he has healing capabilities far beyond that of a human!” he yells and the crowd cheers.

  “This man is a liar!” I scream, “And a bloody thief and if you wish not to have his same crimes burdened upon you, I suggest you withhold your money.” I yell,  but within moments, they are riled again. It is a the danger of owning Kurt, the feel of having something so feral tamed and brought to heel and the ugliness and heavenly beauty that surrounds him, they can barely handle themselves.

 I know the feeling all to well.

  “I will buy him back from you, a hundred pounds.” I growl towards Nur, “Give him back or I swear I will toss you from this balcony.” Professor Nur chuckles and lays a hand on my shoulder, though I shrug it off. 

 “But Warren, how can I return such a thing to you? Even with your money, your family already owns him.” 

 “We what?” I hiss.

 From behind him, there is a document that he hands off to me. Certificate of  Ownership, like the deed to one’s house, not only giving ‘The German Nightmare: Kurt’ over to Professor Nur, but I notice the second signature is that of my Father’s.

 “I will buy him back, give you twice as much as my Father offered you to do this,” I am angry and I am desperate, so I plead the best I can, “Sir, I guarantee you, he will not survive if kept in captivity, it will kill him.”

 “Then why have you held onto him? Why not just finish the job, hm?” someone pushes past me, brown hair, slicked back and laced with silver. “Worthington, your boy is being petulant.” Nur says and my Father turns to me.

 “Well, you couldn’t make a wife out of him, and you were too much of a child to do away with him yourself, so - I made a business deal, and now, he is ours.” he turned to the gathered crowds, and I looked back to my Kurt, who has curled himself to the bottom his tank.

 I pressed my fingers to the glass, ignoring the him of the electrified lid that had already burned him, where my hand way, his claw placed over it. I shook my head, mouthing ‘I’m sorry’. 

 The owned him, they owned him, I could’ve vomited right there.

 As a last resort, I found my fingers wrapped about my Father’s throat, shocked screams went throat the crowds.

 “I already lost my mother, you fucking bastard. I am not losing him for your greed.” I growled through gritted teeth, his face was almost joyful, as if in a slightly drunken haze. “Kill me then, boy. Do it. Kill me for this animal you love so dearly.”

 My hands tightened, and I had meant to do it, wanted to watch him die, see him fade from this Earth. Strong hands pulled me off, and there was the feel of a knee to my stomach and then another couple blows to my face.Kurt saw it, he saw everything, and almost mournfully I saw the world turn to black.

 I am asleep, I am floating, the night air hits me and the distant slam of huge doors as the murmur of the crowd becomes that of restless ghosts. They carry me, carry me farther and farther away from Kurt, and I hear the gentle flow of water.

 There is the cold splash, and the world is quiet, dark and drifting. 

Chapter Text

May 20th, 1906
I’d pulled myself to the embankment last night, but I still can’t remember why.
They water sought to claim me, I should’ve let it, as my vision grew bleary and weak, and the world around me became nothing but wet and darkness. I should’ve let the current carry me down, ignore the burning for air in my lungs and just let the river own me, let me drown and let my only lament be a steady gurgle in my ears.
But no, the fool I was, I forced myself to live, how typically human of me. Given my injuries I managed it, but just barely. I was pushing against the current and clinging desperately to the walls that bordered the river, but as I did there was the thought that maybe those men that beat me should’ve shot me, so I wouldn’t have to go back home. Wouldn’t have to deal with the loss of my Kurt and wouldn’t have to lay by the road after pulling myself from the river and eternity later.
I didn’t move and the world was going black again.
________________________________________
“Are you alright?” was the voice of a woman somewhere above me, I jolted awake. “Can you hear me?” she spoke again, I nodded.
I could barely see out of my one eye, and my whole body ached. There was a man standing a few feet behind her, looking entirely bored. “Leave him, probably a drunk that was too stupid to even drown himself.” he snapped. “Richard, please!” she turned back to me.
“Do you have a home to go to, sir?”
“We aren’t taking him back with us, Kitty!” I nodded to her again, there was no need for her to get involved, her or her damn beaux. “I’m - I’m fine, Kitty, is it? It’s fine, I have a home, it was just a rough night as all.” I told her, though my mouth felt too big and clumsy to speak and I could just barely clearly discern her face.
She bit her lip, glancing back between myself and Richard, “Do you have someone that can take care of you? These wounds look ripe for infection, and your eye is swollen.”
“Thank you, nurse.” I smiled at her, though it probably looked awful given my predicament. “Would you mind giving me the time and where exactly I am?”
“Two in the afternoon in Battersea Park, sir. You’re in London..”
Two. Damn it, had I been out for that long and where I was laying just barely hidden by the brush on the one side of the path, the other with the bar that I’d crawled under after puling myself from the river, and only this one girl had stopped.
One girl, in all these hours, as I lay practically dead on the embankment.
“Bless you.” I told her, and she smiled before her beaux came and pulled her up, her tiny wrists engulfed in his huge hands before he practically dragged her away.
“Goodbye!” she yelled, “Goodbye, and get well, sir!”
I waved her off, with her tiny wrists and her oval face and damn beaux. Tiny wrists and an oval face. Some of the tiniest wrists I’ve ever seen, though Betsy’s were smaller.
Betsy.
I stood up at the realization, Betsy had been the only one home with Kurt at some point last night, given that Father had shown up to the Ball and I’d failed to so much as kill him after he’d stole away my Kurt. But Betsy had been home when they took him, Betsy was still there - she had to be.
So I began to run, from Battersea Park to Canonbury and with my whole body burning and aching against it, I ran.
I ran past Vauxhall, not even baring to look at the mansion hall, it was too familiar, too fresh in memory, and I supposed when I was healed, I would return to lay I single flower by the golden doors.
But now, I had to run.
Betsy had been home alone, when they took him, and I know Father would not spare her or tell whoever had taken Kurt to treat her nicely, for though her heart was strong her body was fragile.
And I kept running across the bridge, not caring that people saw this hopeless injured boy in a ruined evening suit with only one shoe and a heart full of regret and dogged hope that there would be one person at home, at least one person whom would show him kindness after a night where he had a lost too much.
I ran through Westminster and saw my mother playing her violin while we entertained guests and I sat in the big chair closest to her and listened. As I went through Covent Garden and saw her calming me after a nightmare, and cooing to me in that angelic voice. As I ran through Clarkenwell I heard the wailing cry of my Father as my mother took her last breath.
London is terrifying, because it can show you everything you’ve been meaning to forget, and it will torment you with them.
Or maybe it is just me.
________________________________________
When I finally reached back on Clephane Road, my heart had all but leaped out of my throat, and my body pulsed so badly I feared my veins would simply implode, but as I clung to the wrought iron stairs leading up to the door I prayed for there to be a single soul inside.
I banged on the door, trying to get the air in my lungs, “Betsy? Betsy are you home? Betsy, please!” there was no answer and I tried to settle the awful feeling in my stomach. No, Betsy was fine, Betsy was always fine, through bruise and burn and belligerence, Betsy lived.
My keys had washed away in the Thames last night, and I’d no way to get in though the front, so instead, I went through the alley and to the back near the kitchen.
I picked up the cart, the one I’d taken Kurt in a few nights before and closed my eyes as I shoved it through the back window.
‘I’m sorry, Mummy. I’ve ruined your house.’ when I heard the sound of glass shattering and giving way to sheer force.
I climbed through, hissing in pain as my hands were cut by the remaining sharpened glass.
“Betsy!” I screamed into the pantry, nothing, I called her name again, she couldn’t be sleeping at this hour, I ran through the parlor and back upstairs.
“Bette, answer me, come on, please - “
I walked into the washroom, there was no Betsy, but the scene that was left behind left me breathless.
They’d both struggled, obviously.
There was more shattered glass and the water that had been left behind in the tub had been tinted pink with blood, The door was nearly put off its hinges and the sweetbriars, Kurt’s sweetbriars, seemed to have blended in with the colored water.
The washroom, the sanctuary where I’d kept Kurt and loved him and held to him and kissed him had been so defiled, so raped, that I was nearly sick looking at it.
I held in my tears, and saw one of Kurt’s books: ‘Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth’ there was obvious water damage to it, and I held it until my knuckles turned white.
I cried, I wept on that floor, holding Kurt’s book. He’d never started it, and my Betsy was gone, the two of them, my two dearest ones.
That was like what death felt like, to lose so much so quickly until your body becomes heavy and numb. I wailed and bawled, because no one else was home. My house was never particularly filled with joy or mirth after Mummy died, but it was filled and that was enough.

________________________________________

I don’t know how long it had been since I hung about in the washroom, but when I was finished my throat was raw, the sun was gone and my eyes were itching incessantly. I worried, worried awfully about Betsy, Kurt’s fate had been decided in formaldehyde and ugliness, but Betsy, she was gone and like a strange ghost - would never entirely know where she was, whether she be in this world or the next. But I would always fool myself into believing she was somewhere behind me, I need only turn around.
Betsy, Betsy, Betsy with her pale face that kept too many faded bruises and cuts, but I insisted they never marred her appearance, and her scrawny limbs that seemed too long for her. I remember telling her that whenever she sat she would curl her arms and legs in towards herself, and uncoil them when she got up, like some great spider missing half its limbs.
The uncertainty, the unknowing and in all of London, there was no guarantee I would find her in these wretched streets, and I was in no condition anyways, my eye still pulsing and silent and my head feeling like a thunderstorm.
If she’d gone out on her own, she’d return. If they had taken her away, she would not return, she was too small, and them most likely too brutish if they’d been able to successfully subdue Kurt.
I kept up a vigil, a small shred of hope, put on every light in the house, cleaned the parlor and waited, waited for her to push through the door, even if I faded in and out of consciousness.
I waited, I waited, I waited.
When the actual thunderstorm came and raged and the electricity in the house blew itself out, Clephane Road as cloaked in the darkness of the night that had surrounded it. I lit every candle I could find and put them all in the windows. Just so Betsy would know home was here, I was here.
I waited, I waited, hoping that my saint would come back that evening, as the thunder pounded and the shattered window let the rain in to wet down the kitchen floor, I put a sheet over it, I just didn’t want the house to be so empty and alone.
I waited for Betsy, and I yearned for Kurt.
Unsurprisingly, neither of them came.

May 21st, 1906
I had said something long ago with having a conveniently awful memory, and tonight I set out making it worse.
Father had not even returned, though I hadn’t wished to see him to begin with, and even with my vigil last night, all the candles had been burned down to little stumps. Even when the electricity was restored, I didn’t turn a single light on the entire day as my hope waned and waned.
The showers today had been light and steady, unlike the violence of last night. But the house was still so empty, and I fought a thought of simply burning it, if no one was to come back to yell at me or hit me or call me a fool in the kindest of ways, the house was to have no peace with me.
Even if I dreaded it, dreaded it because of him, I’d never felt so small inside of it, never felt so alone since I was very young.
I’m in the parlor now, and I’ve already set about raiding my stash of good vodka. I’d meant to keep it for when I was published, but now the books of writings and hypothesis sit in a pile by the fireplace.
The love-seat, I remember, used to be too big and my feet would barely come over the edges, but I have a fondness for it.
It seems I recall my mother at the worst of times, but I will tell of her again, since she has not reappeared to drag me from my state once more, I suppose I can find comfort like this.
I was young, probably not even four, when the nanny had brought me down from the playroom one afternoon. Father had his clients to deal with, and my mother took calls from some of her friends. I came down on wobbly feet and sat in between two of them, making a comment about how ladies’ skirts were like the ocean, they could float on them, but I could drown in them.
Tough some of the ladies blushed and giggled nervously, looking at my mother to chastise me, she only laughed and hoisted me onto her lap.
“Warren,” she’d said in between giggles, “Then that must mean all good ladies must be good swimmers, yes?”
“Extraordinary swimmers, Mummy.” she’d taught me that word, or rather only I ever heard her say it. ‘Maisie, that dress is extraordinary!’ or ‘This book, though with a terribly dreadful ending, is simply extraordinary!’ she’d used it so much I’d forgotten what it meant, but I always used it in reference to her. Because of her.
Though I wanted to laugh, because it is true, all ladies must’ve been good swimmers, though they didn’t compare to Kurt.
I asked her if she was going to play something on her violin, and she replied with: “I should, shouldn’t I, little mister?” she smiled, I always liked that nickname, it made me feel important.
She put me down in the loveseat again and ran to fetch her violin, her blonde hair whipping out behind her. Her friends, though they never admitted it, thought she was odd. She let me run wild, according to them, she never wore her hair up, and she always put so many lumps of sugar in her tea because ‘there is no use for more bitterness in a world that contains so much of it’.
When she returned to us with her violin she smiled, and I ignored the ladies’ muttering as she began to tune it.
“Warren? Are you ready?” I leaned in to listen and I knew she wasn’t playing for them, she was playing for me.
“Come all you fair and tender girls,
that flourish in your prime.
Beware, beware keep your gardens fair,
let no man steal your thyme,
let no man steal your thyme.”
She played it all out for me, and it was one of my favorite songs to hear her preform. My eyes went wide and I swayed gently to it.
“The gardener’s son was standing by,
three flowers he gave to me,
the pink, the blue and the violet true,
and the red, red, rosy tree,
and the red, red rosy tree..”
This was the part where I joined in, because I loved the image of a cautionary woman speaking of lovers who would surely leave you by the wayside once you grew old and beauty left you, and who loved red, red rosy trees.
I tried to imagine it clearly. The pink was Betsy, light and blossoming and so full of life. The blue and violet, that was Kurt - alluring and mysterious beckoning you ever closer with its vivid color and wide red, red, rosy eyes.
The memory faded, but she did not. Her violins and her gardeners never left the parlor, and I just realized I’ve been humming the tune to her song for the past ten minutes.
Damn what I’ve said before, the liquor doesn’t make your memories awful, it sharpens them and forces you to face them, and then it breaks you so you are forced to stare at them but never have the heart to apologize to those that are gone for what you’ve become.
Damn it, damn it and fuck it all, this house is too empty and quiet and I hate it.

May 22nd, 1906
The house remains quiet, with the exception of me throwing the empty glass bottles into the fireplace downstairs, I rarely go into my room and the last time I’ve actually ingested food was Saturday night.
It has stopped raining for the first time in days, but it takes me an hour to notice. I’ve just been regretting and drinking, regretting and drinking for the past few days and I’ve fallen into a sweet routine.
There is another memory, and in it I remember Peter.
Peter came in my second year at Hollow’s, and in it I remember his loudness and him being so violently American, he would cuss like a sailor and eat so much I swore him to have lacked the proper stomach to store any of the food he consumed. But he kept around me, and for someone who had next to no one at the College for over a year, I took him gingerly.
His smile was wide, radiant and almost permanent. Whenever he was pulling tricks on his professors or other students or late at night when I was studying and he’d muse on the bed next to me. My roommate found it strange but I simply explained to him Peter had no siblings and neither did I, so if keeping my company so closely is what he needed, I would indulge him.
So, indulge I did and I fell hopelessly for him.
Our first kiss was rough, not because either of us wanted it to be so - but because of the lack of experience and rushing blood and feverishness of the two of us, there was the tongues and the teeth that made Peter and I laugh at how ridiculous it was.
We went on for a few months, stealing away and hiding what we were, but we kept going, running and running into such trouble.
There was one evening, we’d both returned from spring holiday and had a day before classes started again and I remember his face so vividly. His eyes shut and the laughter in his face gone and replaced with the serenity of post-coital bliss, and I brushed some of his graying hairs away and he leaned up to kiss me again.
“We could leave, Warren, we could run away and we wouldn’t have to hide this anymore.”
My eyes widened and I chuckled, “We couldn’t, Peter, as much as I love you, to run away from this - from everything, I couldn’t do it.”
His small smile fell, “But why? If they’re gonna find out about the two of us and kick us out, we’ll have nowhere to go anyways. Your Pa will cut you off, and who knows what my parents will think of it. Let’s just go, let’s just run.”
He was right, the secret was to remain that: a secret. All the sneaking around and late night visits that usually went with hands clapped over mouths to silence moans. All of that - and Peter was just going to be so impulsive as to quit all of it. Even if I loved Peter’s impulse.
“No.” I had told him, “Peter I adore you, but running won’t save us, if we’re found out there, its death, in here, it’s just a matter of money and honor.”
“But in here I can’t love you, out there - we can, just with greater risk.”
“I’m not going to risk losing you over this, Peter.” I sighed, but he wouldn’t have it, he sat up and looked down at me with those huge hazel eyes.
“I have to love you in private?”
“Sadly, yes.” I shrugged, that’s when he got up and began to fumble about for his clothes.
“You don’t want me, I know it. You just want a good fuck and someone to obsess over, but you don’t fucking love me, you won’t leave anything behind.”
“I won’t leave because I won’t have you face the outside and its prejudices.”
He laughed, a sickening sound, “You say that like I haven’t already.”
He slammed the door, and I was left alone.
Peter wouldn’t talk to me for weeks following our argument, and any apologies I tried to make to him were promptly rewarded with harsh, snapping words and him pushing me even farther away.
The days grew long and lonely, and I hoped for him.
He talked to me the last night before he was to go back to New York for the summer. “I’m sorry.” his words sounded defeated, and I shook my head, casting an arm around him which he shrug off, he was still upset.
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have treated you like a child.”
“But I acted like one.”
“You did not act like a child, you acted how you felt, you felt ready to take on everything with me and I simply wasn’t willing.”
“But you were right.”
“I was a brute.”
He shakes his head and chuckles and he doesn’t speak for several moments. But when he turns to me his eyes are wide and hopeful. “I just - I just loved you, but I think we need step back, be friends, don’t complicate it more than it needs to be.”
“Make it simple?” I asked, Peter nodded. “So simple, please. I think we need it.”
He had smiled and I’d hugged him, we’d kept it that way since. The simplicity, the laughter, the friendship - because we couldn’t make it into anything else.
There had been one more kiss, right after my graduation where Peter had pulled me away and shoved those lips onto mine and I laughed and picked him up and swung him about.
It was still simple, it always had been from then.
I look over at the pile of books again, still sitting by the fireplace. This time and I wish for simplicity, for peace against the storm.
Mostly, I wish for love.
________________________________________

Tonight, I visited Betsy’s room - as if she and climbed in through the window earlier in the day and hadn’t had the strength to come downstairs.
The attic was falling apart, the floorboards creaked awfully, and the whitewashed walls were splotched with gray and cracks that wound up them like ivy vines. The smell was damp and in the summer it became insufferably hot. The wrought iron bed had one of its legs propped up by a brick, and the flimsy sheets had been made nicely onto it, a few of them folded down.
There was Betsy’s chest, where she kept everything from home, and now, everything I’d given to her. Despite being old and battered and with one of the latches in desperate need of repair, it had held nicely, even still having the stamp from when she’d came those few years ago from Applecross Station to London on the train.
She’d been tiny and her maid’s outfit too big on her, and her accent was so thick and she spoke so softly that I could hardly understand her.
I looked over the trunk, she’d folded the numerous dresses I’d given her ad placed them atop a multiple stacks of books, I gingerly placed a finger over the satin and silk and tried to relish in her smell of fresh baking and talcum powder.
In the lid, there was a picture, worn and weathered. Her mother and the two boys, with her sitting just as nice on the ground. The one looked right upset to be held so tightly in his mothers’ arms, and the other had hidden himself behind her skirts. But Betsy, with eyes wide and boring into whoever viewed her, watched with rapt interest and a face etched with kindness.
I took in a shuddery breath and I let the room go silent, as if expecting to hear the door open or close. Betsy knew London, she wouldn’t get lost.
And when Betsy left somewhere she loved, she vowed to come back. Like the little teahouse I’d taken her to last winter in Primrose Hill, she curtsied to the owner and said she would return in her good graces and health and I had laughed, because Betsy could be a great lady when she wanted to be but without the airs and snobbery. She would be respectful and intelligent and graceful when she donned one of her silk dresses, but in her maid’s outfit - there was a certain softness, an easiness to her I loved.
I am a sentimental fool, I know, but I took one of the dresses. A light blue carriage dress that she had only worn once, it barely smelled of her anymore, but I bought it only because the color was identical to that of her eyes, and she only wore it because she knew it was my favorite one.
My Elizabetsy, the only semblance of a sister I had, and she and been willed way into the night by thieves.
I stayed in her room and waited for her return again.

May 23rd, 1906
I woke after two hours of sleep with a sickening feeling in my gut, it was raining steadily again.
The ticket, the same one I bought last Thursday when Betsy made her honey cakes still at in the very same coat pocket I’d left it in. One stateroom back to Cuxhaven to leave this morning at nine o’clock. I went back into the little cupboard in the pantry where he kept the kindling and placed it in a heap in the parlor, the ticket still clutched my hand.
I glance over at the clock, and it’s only seven thirty.
I could still go, take the trip to Germany and never return, throw myself into the Lahn and never return to this old and empty house, just be tranquil and quiet and just fucking drown.
Kurt must be long gone now, but I find myself dwelling to much on the details of his passing. Did they cut him open while he was still awake, only bothering to restrain and gag him and nothing else, or was he quietly injected with morphine to to sedate him before they took everything out?
I’ve seen Kurt fall asleep before, and his face relaxes, and his eyes just barely flutter open and his mouth is always slightly agape and I see just the tips of his teeth. This feral beauty becoming soft and warm, and his claws curl into fists and the tip of his tail just tucks itself underneath the rest of him.
I love it, the sight of it, and I wish they’d done him the kindness, those devils, of killing him in his sleep, tearing him open when he barely felt it.
But there is a pang of guilt, because despite Father’s words, I would never desecrate or violate Kurt without his consent, and even if the body of a mermaid is entirely new territory of which I am not familiar with, I would never sate my explorations so brutally.
I can see them removing his organs and taking him apart, raping him, invading him so grotesquely. I swallowed down more of the vodka, sand I was nearing my last bottle, but I couldn’t bring myself to save any of it.
What would kill me most is if they had taken his eyes, only leaving behind the empty sockets. No more canaries or rubies gazing back at me just the right hint of danger, they would take his eyes and keep them separately, probably taking them out to display the color change underwater and in air.
They would take Kurt apart and put him back in a glass case of chemicals to be gawked at and he would float and would be silent and still.
I wished I could see those eyes again, wide and smiling and yearning to see the world but not wanting to see it from behind glass and wanting this odd thing called love that he’d only seen other creatures partake in but something he wanted to know about for himself.
I wish they would do the same to me, take me apart as well. Because Kurt is a thing of beauty, and to pull apart such a thing should be a sin. But to pull me apart, to take my eyes, put them aside and to take my face and separate my arms and legs from the rest of me - I would delight in nothing more.
Despite my favoring of doing it myself I think Kurt would much prefer if I died by someone else’s hands than those of my own.
Who could tell, perhaps they’d display us together - some sort of rotten show of a pair of lovers.
If the liquor is to shut my body down from the inside so be it. I’ve run myself a bath a and I’m still drinking. If no one is to come for me and drag me off to be dismembered so gracefully, I will count this entire day as a failure.
It takes me a moment to recount Kurt never knew love, he’d never truly experienced it, and if he and, it would be short-lived, as fear overtake his dying breaths. Because creatures like him, knew anger, they knew fear, but love - love and caring and closeness, I regret never showing him more of it.

May 24th, 1906
The first time my father beat me without my mother being there to intervene was only a couple of weeks following her funeral.
I’d gone into her and Father’s room where she kept her violin under the bed, the room still smelled of her , and the instrument even more so. It was polished, but yet still obviously worn, and yet I held it close to me. hoping that it would somehow turn it not her and she would be here to tell me she was sorry for leaving and wouldn’t do that again.
I hadn’t meant to break the string off of it, but when Father caught me he beat me savagely, said he didn’t even know why he hadn’t just shipped me off to an orphanage as soon as they and laid her in the ground. Didn’t know why he had let Mummy keep me inserted of of drowning me right after I was born.
I called out for her, screamed for Mummy to come, but she never did, she never stopped him, he only stopped when I blacked out and found myself in the children’s ward at the hospital with a broken leg.
The new maid had come in and taken me there, Father had fired our last one out of poor spite after Mummy died, and that maid was fired as well, for abandoning her duties to help me.
I told her she didn’t have to go, she could sat there and be my nanny, but she smiled through her tears, saying she couldn’t, Father wouldn’t let her.
I wasn’t angry with him for beating me, I was angry with him for firing the poor girl who’d only been there a week, she had children not to much older than me, and it hurt to see her go, I cried and I cried and didn’t stop until Father threatened to cane me.
That’s when the loneliness and emptiness began to settle in, the house grew too big and I too small. There were no more ladies to call in the afternoon and whisper about my mother behind her back, no more violins or stories of wayward lovers of swashbuckling or ghosts.
The house was as empty as it is now, the only difference being back then i cared, I had to care, but upon discovering the blessing that is vodka - the house might as well be full of people. Though I’ve barely eaten, I went out to buy more whiskey and scotch, and broke into Father’s stash that he keeps in his study, managing to deplete all of that within several hours, and promptly vomited it all back up.
My head pounds, my stomach is beginning to devour itself and I am numb. The bruise is still there, from when he broke my leg, long faded but an oblong patch of dark skin amongst the pale and hair that surrounds it.
I take to a bit of the German ale I brought back to keep myself from feeling anything, and I don’t care if i wretch up my organs or kill over in the parlor, I could give a damn less.

May 25th, 1906
In the midst of the muddle, I discovered something and I’ve taken to burning every remnant of Kurt I can.
This very evening, nearly a week since that night I have my own memorial service, my own wake and I mourn everyone.
Mummy, Kurt, Betsy and myself, they’ve all gone and died (or in my situation, I might as well be).
The books and books I kept writing about Kurt, with drawings and hypothesis are made into kindling, along with the ticket. One of Betsy’s little cloth dolls she made when she first came here, for Mummy a pair of white, lace gloves made in Italy.
They’re all dead, all gone, and for myself I merely put my hand over the fire, and try to feel something.
I pull back after several moments to see the burn and I curse myself, because that - simply just letting myself be hurt is too much for me. I scream all of them, if they can see me, if they care so much as to say something so that I would not have to see here in this empty, quiet house without any of them.
They don’t call back, I smash a whiskey bottle into t the fire and it roars to life, the rain pounds outside and I shut all the windows.
I give them the proper sendoff on the funeral pyre in the hearth, I let them crumble to ashes as they have done to me, I try to give them and myself some peace and quiet and respite.
I scream for them, and no one answers, they are gone - they are all gone.
My funeral will be tomorrow, I hope you will be in attendance.

May 26th, 1906
My last day on Earth was in its own, hushed and still.
I have taken the moment to think that in twenty-four years, there is been not a single thing I will leave behind. No money, no works, definitely no children; I will leave behind ramblings and memories to a group of people that have been close to me.
And Peter, oh god, I will leave behind Peter and his smiles and his premature gray hair. I will leave my poetry, and I will leave my mother. All those people at her funeral, her family and friends, I was the only one that would walk those blocks and go back every Sunday to see her. I would always return even when her name started to wear off of the stone and the angel that rested over it began to weep tears of rust and its pristine white wings began to weather and blacken.
I wonder if they will treat me the same, set me alight or put me in the ground, would they lament me, would they return to see me every Sunday or simply let me pass away with the years?
I sit in Kurt’s bathtub, naked but blanketed in every sweetbriar in the window boxes, I plucked them all this afternoon. Empty liquor bottles line the outside and in them I’ve put candles. Betsy’s rosary around my wrist and I feel a thrumming warmth, the bath is too hot and I continue to drink and write.
The morphine sits in the windowsill, unopened. I am still numb.
I will leave nothing, my Father will think it delightful I have left him. He never had me as a son, he had a pawn, something to beat his frustration into.And Kurt, I hope is soul was serene, and I hope God accepts Betsy as his closest confidant in heaven for her work on earth.
On second thought, I hope he leaves Betsy alone, she needs to rest.
The burn of bourbon doesn’t make me flinch anymore, I have long since stopped listening to my stomach growling. I drop the bottle and it shatters on the floor, and accompanying it is a thud that rattles the lights.
I stop, and look up, and listen and there is nothing for a few moments.
Then there’s more thuds, within quick succession of each other, like fat frightened rats skittering across the attic.
“Warren?”
I’m dead, I’ve already died because I didn’t hear her voice, she isn’t alive anymore, she’d left me.
“Warren, are you home?” she calls again. The footsteps begin to descend the staircase that leads to the attic and I’m thankful I’ve closed the door, because if she is real and calling for me, she needn’t see me like this, weak and drunk and angry and helpless, she doesn’t know me in this way. Betsy doesn’t know.
But Betsy knows everything.
“Warren, Warren if you can hear me, please, say something!” she calls out and god, her voice sounds like she it is struggling to even speak.
The footsteps grow closer, and then I swear I can hear breathing against the door. “Warren? Are you in here?”
I don’t answer her, even if I desperately want to, I want to tell her I’m sorry, want to ask her where she’s been. I want to hold her tiny wrists in mine and remind her how much I bloody love her, and if she is only a ghost - I want to tell her goodbye.
Betsy bangs on the washroom door, and I flinch away. “Warren, Warren, please!” she yells, her voice is becoming sobs.
No, I remind myself. She sounds so awful, to see you like this, she wouldn’t be able to take it.
I don’t move and I pick up the bottle of morphine, twirling the cool glass over and over. There is silence.
Do it, do it. She will be alright without you, go to sleep.
I glance back at the syringe, before I hear the jingle of keys and the door unlocking. Betsy’s huge ring of keys, they allowed her into every room in the house and she guarded them diligently.
But now she stands at the door, and I wish she hadn’t come in. Not only so she doesn’t have to witness me like this, but because I have to see her, and is like someone had stolen had stolen her voice and worn her skin.
She looks as if she’d spent her entire life in a deplorable orphanage and only just managed to find her home.She’s soaking wet, her skin is sallow and wan. Her hair is scraggly and hangs limply down to her waist. She wear’s a cotton shift that’s too big for her, and her knees are badly bruised. I can’t see her arms, what with the plaid shawl that covers them, and her feet as bare with one of her toes bleeding.
“Warren, what did you do?” she asked, though she attempts to smile, she is trembling badly.
Then Betsy collapses and I jump from the tub, screaming out to her and she only offers up whimpers. I hold her, her pulse still beating and I cradle her against my bear chest. She’s listless and the only thing she can see to do is breathe. My Betsy, alive alive and dying in my arms.
I cried.

 

May 27th, 1906
Dawn breaks, and I haven’t slept.
I put her in the bath last night, scrubbing the grime and stench from her until her skin was fresh and pink. I untangled her hair and washed it, braiding it before I lay her down to sleep. If she were to catch cold from being out in the rain for who knows how long, I’d stay with her, I’d care for her. In this wretched city, I was the only one who could.
I pretended not to notice the numerous bruises and scars that lined her lithe body, and over and over again I whispered for her to stay with me, stay alive, please, please. I put her in a clean nightgown and then in my bed.
I held her with one arm and watched for any sign of her rousing, but she slept the night through.
It was mid-morning when she woke, and her eyes were wide as if the place she was in wasn’t familiar. She tried to move, but it caused her pain, and when she turned back to me , she was all but shocked.
“Did - did you bring me back?” she asked.
I shook my head no, telling her she came back herself. Her eyes darted about the room, sitting up. “Warren, no. That’s not right, I went out looking for you after the Ball when you didn’t come back the next morning. I knew you went to Vauxhall. I knew you did, after they came in and took Kurt and everything got so dark and -” her eyes were brimming with tears and she was talking so fast, I held her, but she recoiled from my touch as if I had burned her.
She went looking for me.
A whole week, and she had just gone to look for me. If there was anything in my stomach I would’ve felt it rise in the back of my throat. A whole week and I was here worrying and burning and drinking and she gone to look for me. I didn’t deserve her.
“Betsy, Betsy, hush, please, you’re here now, you’re with me. You came in last night through your room, you came back home, you came back to me. “
She shook her head, shaking and I tried to hold her again, but to no avail. “These men, these men - they came and they took me to this place and it smelled awful and they gave me something and I fell asleep. When I woke up they were all talking about what they were gonna do with me. They’d stripped me, Warren. Stripped me bare and tied me up so I couldn’t move. They were talking about selling me, but one of them said I was too young. So they,” she tried to catch her words, slow them so she could think, but the last ones refused to come out, like as if she said them they would kill her immediately.
“They took turns, Warren. They took turns with me, for a long time, it felt like years. But this other girl that lived in the house, she would feed me, and she would tell me what day it was. She said they’d done the same thing to her, and I told her, no, no this was wrong. I told her I had to go home, I had to go back to Canonbury, I told her I was a maid and I and to get back home, because you would miss me.” her eyes were turning pink and tears threatened to fall but she kept talking quicker and quicker.
She helped me get out, snuck me out with a cab one night when they were finished with me.” she chocked out, “They took me back to St. Paul’s and I walked back. I just wanted to come home, Warren. I don’t know where they took Kurt, or what they did with him, and I’m sorry. I tried to protect him from them but there was so many, and he started screaming and there was so much blood. I’m so sorry, Warren. I just wanted to come back and find you -”
I saw her break, and she leaned against me, falling into a fit of tears and wailing out. I held her, the animals that had done this to her, reduced her to this small, fragile state and defiled her. I held her, rocked her and stroked her thin, raven hair.
I glanced back in the washroom, the morphine still sitting in the window as if mocking me. You can’t help her, she could’ve been killed out there, and you did nothing. You sat in here while she suffered, she hates you as much as she hates your Father. You’re a selfish brat. Fuck you, Warren. Fuck you.’
I ignored it, that voice that would pain me, and instead I clung to my Betsy. My girl, my last shred of family. I cried quietly, because despite the damage, the hurt and the cold - she was home and back to me.
________________________________________
Betsy didn’t really regain her strength to walk about until later in the day, but I found her clinging to the railing of the stairs when I was in the kitchen. Both hands trying to hold up her shaking frame and taking her time coming down to the landing. Her braid swung gently with every step and in her eyes was a look of fierce concentration.
“Bette, how do you feel?”
“This place is a mess.” she mutters, going to pick up some of the the empty liquor bottles, “Did you have a party?”
I sniff, turning away from her, “Don’t bother with them, I’ll pick them up myself.”
Betsy wouldn’t have it, and she clings to the wall as she limps into the kitchen, even though she’s clean, she still looks absurdly weak, with every move she whimpers and grimaces as if she’s walking on hot coals. “Warren, what did you do when I was gone?”
“Nothing. I didn’t do anything important, Betsy.”
“But all of this, Warren? All of it? Have you even eaten?” when I don’t respond, she shoves me. It doesn’t hurt or even have that much force, but simply the shock of having her do so is what off puts me. “Warren, you can’t do that. You can’t just bloody drink like this every time something goes wrong!”
My face hardens, “Betsy, its none of your business if I drink, if I want to kill over in the bathtub with a bottle of bourbon, I can and I will.” my voice is causal and unnervingly clam and her eyes widen. “You think I came back here to watch you die?”
“You certainly arrived at the right time.”
Betsy pushes me harder this time, knocking herself on the floor in the process but when I offer to help her up, she pushes me away. “I had to leave my Mum, yeah? I and to watch her do this same shite to herself when my Da left, she never got over him, she never got any better and I had to leave her because she wouldn’t work. But you, you’re smart, you’ve got a good brain in your head, and you wanna waste it drinking and feeling sorry for yourself.”
“Because of what, then? Kurt is dead and I thought you were gone as well, I have lost so much, and yet you expect me to simply forget about him, forget everything I had with him? You’re bold, little girl. Damn bold. ”
“I’m not saying to forget, but this isn’t the way to do it. This isn’t the way to mourn.”
“Then what have you lost?” I’m sneering at her, but she doesn’t stand down. “Who have you mourned?”
She clenches her fist, and stays at me had, her eyes are aflame. “I have lost you, Warren. You’ve right, died, you have. I don’t know who took your body, but this isn’t you.” and then she turns to walk out, leaving me behind with the hot stove and rage that was beginning to mingle with regret. I hear her smashing the battles as she throws them into the fireplace.
I am quiet, I don’t stop her because corpses can’t talk.

________________________________________

After lunch, we both stay in the parlor, there’s less empty bottles and more broken glass and Betsy admires the way the shards glint in the late afternoon sun. She is still angry and hasn’t spoken, but when sleep finally takes her again, I watch over her like aways. I can’t stay angry at my Betsy, it would only serve to pain me farther.
I hate what I’ve done, what I’ve made her suffer through because of my selfishness, how I’ve made her into a petulant child with my words, I hate that I’ve served only to agonize her.
But I love her, by god, I love her all the same.
I’m half asleep on the couch across from her when the door clicks and shifts and I turn to me my father in a fitted suit and looking pleased with himself, but the mood quickly changes when he sees me and the den of wallowing that has become our parlor.
“Has someone died?” he asks, almost amused.
I haven’t the spirit to reply, “You know damn well who.” he grins his sick grin.
“Couldn’t find another whore, could we? This so like you, so pathetic.” I sink farther into the chair, “Leave me alone.” I don’t want to look at him, for fear of what I’d do, especially with Betsy just a few meters away.
“Did you use her to help it, ease the pain of losing that animal?” my nails dig into the cushion and I curl in on myself.
“No.” I said sharply, and he chuckles. I know what he means and I want tell him what’s happened but even he is too vile and low to even hear it. “Where has he gone?”
“By law I can’t tell you.” he laughs again, “But you really found a gem. Six hundred pounds, by god - we split it right down the middle, Nur and I, and he went right back to Cairo with his boat and a woman.”
I don’t comment, he goads me farther. “We turned him over a bit damaged, though. He loved to fight, burned himself quite a few times on the cage.” I curl farther into myself, squeezing my eyes closed and trying to breathe.
“I was hoping during my absence you’d kill over, but it seems money cannot buy all of my wishes.”
He says it so proudly, like he’s just bought a prized mare and intends to breed it immediately. I remain still as he goes up the stairs, but before he can reach the landing I blurt it out, the fool I am, I say it:
“I’m leaving.”
Father hums, not so much in shock, more so as if he was barely listening and only wanted to acknowledge me. “I gave you what you want, you have no more use for me in this house, I’m leaving.”
I hear the door slam to his study and I look over at Betsy, still fast asleep.

Chapter Text

June 5th, 1906

The past days following my announcement were met with minimal resistance and many trips to the bank. My Father didn’t hold all of his money on Clephane Road, but I managed to pull my own savings of seventy pounds from a slew of jobs I’d had before going off to Hollow’s and carrying the death certificate of my Mummy, I was left with her savings as well, giving me six hundred-seventy pounds in total.

 Bless her heart, though I’m convinced God gifted her with five instead of one.

 On the subject of the move, I’d kept in correspondence with a landlord in Merseyside, about a mile away from a small university called St. Helen’s, of which I would be apprenticing at for the summer before I’d be considered for a teaching job come autumn. The income would primarily be made at a print shop not too far from the new apartment and the rest of the money my mother had given me would be saved.

And of course, Betsy would be accompanying me north. This past weekend, we’d gone up to see Merseyside, the town was small, quaint, not nearly a loud or suffocating as London, and bordered by the Canal Banks South and East. Betsy had liked the apartment, running about in it as soon as I’d stepped away to discuss the matter of rent. 

 My Father had yet to comment on the goings on, and I did not wait with baited breath for his permission, I searched for the records of Kurt’s sale and exactly to whom, but turned up nothing. If he’d destroyed it, he’d be a fool, but if he’d kept it locked away, just out of my reach somewhere in this house, I searched when I could and it was ultimately fruitless. 

 I have had to leave in tears like so many of the people he’s ruined, no records of sale or signatures to whomever. There has been not a thing. As if Kurt never existed. 

 When we returned back to Canonbury on Monday, he had been interviewing a girl not that much older than Betsy for the job, and Betsy had been worried.

 “I will send your pay to your family, have no worries. It will be as if you’d never stopped working.”

 “And what I am I to do then?”

 “Well, you’re to go to school, like any other child.” “But Warren, I have to work, I won’t get anywhere with book-learning.”

 “Lies and slander, Elizabetsy. You can work, once you’ve been educated, but for now, I’m going to give you the opportunity to be a child, since my Father has all but ruined it for you.”

 She’d sat on the bed, twiddling with the fluffy blonde hair of her doll. “A school?”

 “You start in September, Bette.” I smiled at her, and she looked down. “But - what if they’ve found out I used to be a maid?” I shoo away the thought. “Then you act like a lady with all the airs and none of the snobbery, yes?” she had laughed, god, she had such a pretty laugh.

 “I’ll have you dressed in furs and diamonds in the winter, and silk in the spring.” she laughed harder as I packed up what was left of my room. “And you, in your print shop? What am I to do all summer?”

 “You can stay with Peter, if you’d like, he’s more entertaining.”  I snickered and she laughed again. “Isn’t he your old - “ 

 “Friend, Betsy, nothing more.” I glanced back at the tub, as if expecting Kurt to glare at me suspiciously, but only frowned when I turned back to her.

 “Kurt would, be happy you were doing this, yeah? He’d be right proud of you. Your Mum, too.” she smiled. I looked back over to her, “You think?” she nodded, my eyes trailed back to the tub again.

 “Are you proud of me, Bette?” 

 “Like a peacock.” of course she was, after her return back, she’d been recovering, I was proud of her as well. Some night terrors and her having the habit of going silent and unfocused for minutes at a time, I tried not think of the mess that was her head. She was still hesitant to touch, especially to me, but I hoped in due time she’d be better. 

 If I am to at least legally become her guardian, I’d do my best to make sure she’s kept far away from the streets. 

  Later on in the night, I wrote a letter to Peter with hopes he was still at Hollow’s and had not yet gone back to America for the summer, if he was going back at all. I asked if he was still at Englefield Green and Egham, if he would like to spend some time with me before I departed north and he departed west. I said it would do me good to see him again, given the cataclysm of our last meeting, and it would be nice should Betsy meet him. I implored him to write or telegram me as quick as he could allow.

 My room was silent save for the pounding of the typewriter and the occasional turning of a page. Betsy had asked if she could sleep in the tub - and though my heart pulled, I let her do so.

 I hoped Kurt wouldn’t mind the tiny occupant.

 


 

 “Do you still miss him?” Betsy’s voice shocked me, as I had expected her to have long since fallen asleep, I was only up late reading over some letter St. Helen’s had sent, registration and apprenticing and the like.

 “You miss him still, Kurt. Yeah?” she repeated. 

 “Of course I miss him.” I said to her, she hummed. 

 “Is that why you’re leaving?”

 “I’m leaving because I think staying here in this house won’t do much good for either of us. Whether or not I stay or go, it’s not like Kurt won’t follow me.”

 “Is it about your father?” I glanced up, her eyes were hard and staring at me with intent.

 “Somewhat, Bette” she hummed again, “Why not just take his house?” she asked. 

 “I want nothing of his, I barely value his name.” 

 “But he owes it to you.” 

 “He owes me nothing.” Betsy stopped, then. I guess she could hear the edge in my voice, but I only sighed and turned back to her.

 “I miss Kurt.” she said, “I miss the two of you together. I miss seeing you so happy whenever you saw him, now he’s gone and you’re leaving, too. It’s like you can’t his memory.”

 I sit down on the chair besides her in the tub, she’s already pulled the blankets and pillows from upstairs and moved them down into it. “I did love him, I loved him so much that if I were to give him the world, the moon and stars and just a bit of the sun, I’d still feel guilty.”

 “Why?”

 “Because I wouldn’t have given him enough. That’s it, Bette. That’s loss, you give and give but that person has already been taken themselves from you, you do your best to hold onto what you have, but there’s an emptiness. The pain never fully leaves, it simply dulls.”

 She doesn’t reply, she simply bids me goodnight and I glance fondly at the other side of the washroom where Kurt’s tank sits against the wall.

 “Kurt loved you. I know he did. He gave all the love he had inside him.”

 

June 10th, 1906

 Peter sent his telegram to me yesterday:

 ‘not going to ny til the end of june,

warren the three, I’ll be in london soon.’

 At dawn, I was up - if I was to leave this very morning and this was to be my last day living in London, there would be one person I needed to visit before I left. 

 So I walked to St. Stephen’s Churchyard, and I carried with me an array of five tea roses, five yellow zinnia and two sweet peas. “I’m leaving, Mummy.” I said with a smile and laying my coat down upon the weathered angel’s shoulder and sat down beside the stone. The churchyard is just barely lit by the sun and there is the humming of insects and the cacophony of birds, and the world of crooked stones and overgrown plants is just slightly distorted in the sight of the surrounding mist. 

 The church bell pounds out seven o’clock 

 “I hate to leave you, Mummy. I have to go, London is not the place you left behind, it’s awful, Mummy. Extraordinary and awful.” I chuckled a bit, patting the stone and toying with flowers in my hand. “If you were hear you’d probably stop me, but I’d only ask you to come with me, for you married a monster, pardon your judgement.” I looked over at the stone. “Thank you for bringing Betsy back to me. She’s coming with me, too. We’re going up north. Ghastly, I know.” I smile again, thigh the early morning scene begins to blur with tears. 

 “Kurt must be there with you, god, I hope you tell him everything embarrassing about me, if anything he needs a good laugh. Tell him about the time where I almost burnt the kitchen down trying to make you tea on Mother’s Day, or the time we carved our names in your violin. Tell him every happy story you remember, tell him about all those trips to the Alps and Paris, and tell him about Italy, I loved hearing about Italy.” 

 The tears are beginning to fall freely now, “He’s so many stories too, my, you two will go on for hours just talking and talking. I don’t know how it would be if the two of you were still here. Prattling on about books and rivers and the most extraordinary things, but yet I have to leave. I have to go, Mummy and I’m sorry I have to - I can’t stay, I have to go because I’m a fool and I’m sorry about what I’ve done and how I’ve made you hurt. I’m sorry, Mummy. For me.”

 There is the stillness, the crickets, the early morning orchestra, and I swear on the edge of my wits - I feel a hand on my shoulder and another gently stroking my curls, and the gentle rustle of layers of silk and taffeta. 

 “Inamorata,” is the disembodied voice, I do not need to turn around. “Where were you?” I ask.

 She sighs and I lean into her skirts. “I fear every time I am to look away from you, you fall apart.” 

 That hushes me, and she begins to sing.

 “But I refused the red rose bush,  and gained the willow tree.

That all the world may plainly see,

 how my love slighted me,

how my love slighted me…”

 


 

 When I return home, there is the sound of laughter coming form inside the dining room. Betsy is wearing a new carriage dress of lilac coloring and swinging her feet back and forth in her seat.  Peter is sitting next to her telling and some wild story that has her laughing.

All of it was covered in ink?”

 “The entire room, Betsy. The whole thing was just ink and people, you’d think we all turned into shadows, ask Warren. He’ll tell you.” 

 “Ask me what?” I say, closing the door, I still hadn’t any keys for it, and had just relied on Betsy letting me in the house, but thankfully she’d left the door unlocked.

 “Peter!” I yelled, and ran towards the table, he hugged me and I swung him around. “Warren the Three! Was just having a chat with your lovely pseudo-sister, told her about the third year ink debacle with Professor Wilson.”

 “Please, I hear he has yet to clean off the the splotch marks from his walls.”

 “I doubt  he actually wants to.” Peter retorted, I tipped my hat to Betsy and she snorted, “Thank you, ya bloody fool.”

 “I heard what happened, that’s all the professors have been talking about.” Peter said, voice low. I didn’t answer. “How are you feeling?”

 “Sordid, mostly, but I’m happy to leave, there’s nothing left. No Kurt, no money - nothing.” I shrug. “But Betsy fancies staying with you for the summer, by the way. You’re all she ever talks about.” Betsy shoved me, “Like the devil I do, but he’s right hilarious, he is. Quite the turn from your snobbery.”

I laugh and as does Peter, I look at the two of them across the table. Betsy holds herself a bit more rigidly now, and she isn’t as given to touching Peter as she is to touching me, but I don’t prod.

 Peter swipes back his unruly hair, and I fear the final exams how now turned it from silvery copper to nearly chrome. “So, today? What are we doing?”

 I shrug, “We can call a carriage, go by every last tea house in London for Betsy’s sake, so she can gorge herself.” she shoves me again. “But I’m not sure.”

 “I know an opium den over in St. John’s Wood.” Peter says, eyes narrowed an full of trouble, I kick him underneath the table. “We’ll decide soon, Betsy, where are your things?” 

 “I left them in your room, I think. I already checked the attic to see if I’d left anything behind.”

 In another life, I would’ve ruffled her hair, kissed her cheek, but I do nothing of the sort. I simply nod her off, “Nice girl. Peter. Can you help me with her trunk. Such a duchess she is, needs to carry a house’s worth of stuff or she’ll crumble.” Betsy rolls her eyes and Peter gets up and follows me upstairs.

 “This isn’t an excuse for us to go again, is it? Not a reason for me to fall a little in love with you again?” Peter asks, reaching for one end of Betsy’s trunk. My jaw sets, “No, Peter. But I intend to speak to you even after I leave, just - not for that kind of comfort, yes? I like this, I like our simplicity.”

 Peter nods, he doesn’t look hurt. “I miss you at Hollow’s.” he says as we begging to move from my room and into the halls.

 “And I, you.” I think I reply a bit too quickly for his liking, but as we go to move down the stairs, I see Betsy returning to her seat with a massive jar in hand.

 “What is that, Bette?” I asked her, setting the trunk down in front of the love-seat. “The honey, I figured we’d need it.” I laugh and Peter looks between the two of us as if we’d both just grown gills and fins before passing it off.

 “There’s my things upstairs, but I think I should be able to handle those myself.” I say, and Peter, though wide-eyed, nods and goes back into the dining room to sit with Betsy as I go back upstairs. 

 She seems to be gently easing herself into this life where no one is yelling at her or beating her, and the way she will occasionally draw her fingers over the fabric of her dress, as if she cannot believe it’s real - it hurts me.

 I keep in mind to take her to Applecross before summer ends, her mother has to see her like this. Happy and mostly unburdened.

 My suitcases consist of one entirely of books, another of clothes and the other essentials, Kurt’s glass coffin which I was thankful that I hadn’t destroyed and my pack. But otherwise, the room looks bare and desolate and I feel a twinge of pain in my heart.

 Damn it all, I can’t be homesick before I’ve even left.

 I begin moving the trunks downstairs, its a bit of a strain, but I don’t mind. Peter would ask once I reached the bottom of the stairs if I needed help and I shooed him off.

 He smiled, and I left when I heard Betsy asked him how old he was, when he told her he was only a year younger than me, she shook her head.

 “You’re a thousand years old with that hair. You knew Methuselah when he was as old as me.” I have to catch myself laughing and I’m sure they can hear me from up stairs. 

 I go to get my pack from my bed and when I find myself back in the hallway I see a man leaving my Father’s office and walking briskly, the new maid flanks his one side looking sore afraid, I barely meet her eyes before she turns them down and hurries down the stairs.

 “Warren!” Father yells for me, I don’t want to bloody look at me, but on instinct, my feet move.

  “Yes?” I say, not even crossing the threshold into his office but instead leaving on the door.

 “Leaving now?” he asks. I don’t answer. “Merseyside, that’s quite the way’s away.” he flips through his papers.

 “Not far enough.’ i say through gritted teeth, “But it is a start. Betsy is to attend school and I am to start working again.”

 “School?” he chuckles, “Damn worthless she-Scot. But she doesn’t belong to me now, new girl here, much quieter, much more obedient, doesn’t fight like a bloody animal.”

I curl my hands, “Mummy would’ve wanted me to go, seeing as how she could’ve barely put up you when she was here, that’s why she spent so many nights with me, in my room and so many days with em by her side. She loathed you, Warren.” 

 He looks up at this, “She was a fickle woman, they all are. The only reason I haven’t married again? Don’t need to split the money, I see you’ll be following the same path, unless you plan to marry Elizabeth once she is of age.”

 I recoil at the thought, “You are vile, and you are wicked, and I hope this house crumbles and falls with you. I kept my promise on leaving, let us see how that one holds.”

 I walk from his office, and I don’t so much as glance back. When I go downstairs, Betsy tells me she would like to visit the Crocus Teahouse, a quaint little place in Hackney I took her to some months ago. Peter doesn’t mind and I go to hail a hansom.

 “Where after?” Peter asks, Betsy looks at me as well, expectantly. I shrug, telling them that it is what Betsy wants to do, but Betsy only waves me off,  this is my day, she says. The oil reason our little band has gathered is because of me and my decisions. So they ask again where I’d like to go.

 In my grave, I want to reply. But there isn’t much place in London I fancy going, I wouldn’t mind taking Betsy to the teahouse, but besides that I lacked any type of intuition and no place particularly struck me expect one.

 If perhaps Kurt was there, even swimming in formaldehyde, if there was even a chance - a chance.

 “It’s not in London.” I said, and I had spoken so quickly that Peter and asked me to repeat, once I did, both of their eyebrows quirked. “Where then, Warren?” asked Betsy.

 “Epsom, Twelve Christ Church Road if I recall the owner’s words correctly. Betsy, have you ever been to a human menagerie?” 

 Betsy’s eyes widened and she shook her head, “Like a circus?”

 “Less - lively, I think.” I shrugged and then it was Peter’s turn to question me, he stood and walked around the table to put a hand on my shoulder. 

 “Warren, what exactly are you trying to tell us, you wanna spend your last days before going up north looking at dead people - “

 I frowned and set my jaw, “There is a possibility, the men that own it - I met them at the Ball, maybe - maybe they have a clue, have him - possibly on display but - if he is there, if he is there, I’d like to see him.”

  Betsy understood and shuffled a bit in her seat, “But Warren, it’s been a week, how are you so sure it’s them that have him?”

 “Do you propose I call all around London looking for a mermaid?” she was silent and pushed her back right against her chair, I turned back to Peter who was still mulling the situation over. “Warren, are you sure? Epsom, that’s putting us out of the way.”

 “I can trust these men, I hope I can.”

 Betsy and Peter looked towards each other and then back to me with eyes full of restraint.

 “Then hail a cab, we’re off to Epsom.”


 

 The hansom arrives in an hour’s time, and the new maid goes to help us but I tell her she doesn’t have to.

 “Are you sure, sir?” she asks, I only smile and push a few shillings into her palms, her eyes stand out on her, wide and blue and dazzling. “What is your name, my lady?” 

 She’s a bit flustered, but she answers. “Alison.” 

 “Be lovely to yourself, Alison. Please treat yourself kindly.” I say and she nods, I nod for Betsy to follow me out and she curtseys towards the girl. Alison goes upstairs humming, and nearly crashes into Peter as he dashes down the stairs. 

 “Did another sweep of your room.” he says, and he’s holding something very tightly in his hand.

 I look around the parlor again, and glance down at Betsy, who’s holding the old, worn violin’s case. “Is it in there?” she nods and I let Peter go out into the cab, she follows him.

 The house will be empty, and it will crumble and fall apart, and I try to tell myself it is the dust that makes my eyes water so.

 It will be bare, and I will not be here to see it.

 I breathe in the scent of baking and talcum powder and liquor and lavender and honey. Old books and new ink, and documents and leather and dust. All of this, all of this is just home - it isjust part of me.

I must sever it, I have to. I blow a kiss into the air, and if Mummy catches it, I smile.

 I close the door behind me and pull himself into the hansom. Praying for myself, Betsy and for poor Alison, who I am sure will realize she is greater than this place and leave within the coming weeks.

I sit opposite Peter and next to Betsy, and he pushes the paper into my hands and I open it.

 A sketch of Kurt, smudged and stained, but it only enhances it, makes it look as if he is underwater right in front of me, grinning sleepily back over at me. The date reads May the 18th, the night before the party. 

 On the other side there is a single poem.

 “And is he is the body electric,

 with skin made of the ocean,

and eyes made of jewels,

and his lips of a fiery devotion .”

 It is awful, it is horrid, and I curse myself for letting such words taint Kurt’s name. But I hold it close to my chest, Betsy takes my hand and squeezes it, and I look towards her as we pull off of Clephane Road and into the endless unsureness of the abyss.  

 I will carry him with me forever, that is loss. 

 


 

 We left Crocus Teahouse with enough pastries to hold us over for the entire trip and Peter had attempted to take a particularly nice mug before Betsy made him put it back on the shelf, bribing him with small strawberry cakes that made him put the thing back.

  We rode through London, the three of us all gazing around at the smog and the throngs of people milling about. The factories and row houses and street children and noise, all a mess of it, a lovely, wicked mess. Betsy pressed her fingers against the glass, as  if wishing to hold onto it all.

 This is home, for me at least - and too leave it is like cutting off an infected limb. You don’t need it, it is toxic for you, but there is a loss there, the need to have it even though it sickens you.

 When city gave way to countryside, she remained quiet whilst Peter and I talked. The afternoon was still early, and we passed a river amongst the rolling green hills and farmland.

 “Reminds me of home, at Applecross.” she looks fondly at it, and my eyes are fixed on it as well. “Reminds me of love, it does.” I say quietly, and Peter smiles a bit sadly towards me.

He tries to keep my mind from it, and we fall into our usual rhythm again. He loves to talk, and so he does it without breathing, and I listen and listen and listen. Not because I fell obliged, it’s because I fear if I am to stop I will think again.

 


Charles had been right when he said the estate was ghastly large, and Peter made a comment about the estate not only being just Twelve Christ Church Road, but also Thirteen through Sixteen of the street as well. The sprawling lawn and the wrought Iron gates reminiscent largely of Hollow’s and the amount of children playing on the grass in front of the looming, old stone building made Betsy’s eyebrows arch in curiosity like she was staring at one of the old, decrepit mansions from her novels.

 We rode through the gates up the winding stone path and the children cleared away from us, the driver grunted for us to get out and Peter ran up to the front stoop to pound on the door.

 “Peter! Show some bloody decorum!” Betsy shouted, hoisting up her scripts as she ascended the stairs, I laughed.

 “Psh, this is me having decorum, I did put on a suit and ride out with the two of you snobs, didn’t I?” she shoved him again but she only snickered. 

 “Hey!” He banged on the door again, “You open?” I pulled him away from it and he cursed me under his breath.

 The door was answered, by a girl who couldn’t have been more than five, dressed in red with wild brown hair topped with an absurd bow. “We’re here for the menagerie, unless Warren only brought us here to adopt kids like you.”

 I nudged him, “Good afternoon, are Mister Charles and Mister Erik busy at the moment?” I put on ym best smile, and yet she still looked the three of us over as if we were phantoms that appeared on her monstrous doorstep.

 “Dada!” she yelled, quite a numbing shriek, when a gruff male voice answered back. “You have friends!”

 “Tell them I don’t have any money to give!” she nodded dutifully and turned back to me, puffing out her chest. “Dada says he doesn’t have any money to give.” 

 I heard Erik snort and I rolled my eyes, “Erik! It’s Warren! I’ve come to see your menagerie!”

 There was a shuffling and a string of German muttering that I only assumed to be curses before Erik strode into the mudroom looking as if he’d just returned from Sunday Mass, although a bit disheveled. 

 “You’re the one that went ranting and raving at the Ball on Saturday, yeah?” I flushed a bit and Betsy looked ups t me, “Most of me, yes. I’ve brought friends, if you didn’t mind. We were leaving London and decided we would love to see your establishment before we go.” Erik hummed and picked up the little girl dressed in red. 

 “Why aren’t you playing with the other kids?” Peter asked her, she shrugged.

 “I don’t like them, Papa does.” Erik kissed her cheek and Peter chuckled. “Should I go get him?” she asked, turning to Erik. “I think he’s in his study, if you are quick enough, then yes.” he placed her down and she took off into he house.

“Tea? Brandy?” Erik asked and promptly allowed us in. The house was huge, the ceiling seemed as far away as the sky and there was the seemingly all-encompassing sound of thumping feet about the place and children’s feet. A couple of maids passed by us and nodded towards Erik and through one of the halls that led to the beastly kitchen there was a gaggle of children walking out carrying books.

 Charles and Erik were obviously many things, and liars not one of them.

 “So it is a school?” I asked, rather idly, Erik hummed. “Charles will swear it was his idea, but we simply had a house full of children and nothing to do with them. So we hired teachers and still called it our own.”

Peter was in awe (which was a state he was easily given to be in) “So - you’re their Pa and their headmaster?” 

 Betsy laughed at such a notion but Erik’s lips on quirked up, “There are classes on Sundays?” I ask, Erik shakes his head. “Not really, some of them simply prefer to study regardless of the day, their final exams are this week.” I nod, as he sat us down at one of the smaller tables in the kitchen. 

“Your dining room must be enormous.” 

 “Oh it is, not big enough, actually. The children have to eat in shifts, we plan to expand it by the years’ end.” Betsy prodded him farther, “And Christmas, you must have to buy all those presents? You could barely even see the tree!” Peter and me turned back towards Erik, Peter riveted as if Betsy was preaching a mind-altering sermon, and I simply amused but somewhat needing to know.

 “Christmas is a - convoluted affair, not that I partake.” he shrugged, going to fix the tea. “Are you a Jew?” 

 “Betsy, mind yourself.” I hissed under my breath but Erik waved me off. “Proudly, and you mustn’t stifle her so. Her questions don’t hurt, she is simply prodding. Biologist you are, you should love the very idea of questions.” 

 Peter nudged me and I shrugged him off, before Charles appeared from the doorway, carrying the Red Girl in his arms. “Erik, you mustn’t snap at our guests so - Warren!” he clapped my shoulder. “Good to see you peaceful again!” he laughed and my own was a bit nervous and wavering, Peter looked towards me as if asking if I was alright, I ignored him. “What brings you back?” Charles asked.

 “I’m leaving London, Charles. ”

 “Tragic.”

 “Your menagerie, I would like to see it.”

 His smile dissipated and his grip tightened on the Red Girl in his arms, “Papa? Papa, what’s wrong?” Erik is Dada, Charles is Papa. Efficient.

 He put her down, “Wanda, go back to the drawing room, please, darling. Your father would be in soon.”

 Wanda glanced between the five of us almost suspiciously, before curtseying and floating out like a lady of airs.

 “Charles?” I pressed him he leaned against Erik. “That scene, what happened at the Ball, that Creature - you screamed for him as if it was your own mother in that tank.” he began.

 My heart leapt and my stomach fell and Peter and Bette were transfixed onto the pair, my eyes turned down. 

 “I had something stolen from me, I all but died at that ball.” Erik looked down at Charles and sighed. “The man, the other Warren and his partner - we won the auction, Charles convinced me after we saw you being carried out. We tried writing to you, even if the whole thing was entirely mad. Even if Kurt were to have belonged to you - it was all absolutely mad, Worthington. We held to him.” Charles’ voice was hollow and sordid, as if reciting eulogy.

 I willed my heart not to break. 

 “is he still alive?”

 Charles bit his lip, “The condition is - deplorable to say the least, but we’ve set on nursing him back to health until he can make his full recovery before I try to examine him, but that is still up to debate.”

 I couldn’t help the tears that came to my eyes, the world grew silent and the bleak light coming in from the windows nearly blinding. My lungs caught fire and my skin turned into a million ants, tingling and crawling and my blood might has well have been boiling water. The sigh I let out was nearly inhuman, and I just barely caught Peter’s concerned, yet glad face out of the edge of my vision. 

 Deplorable, deplorable didn’t matter, deplorable could be restored, fixed and brought back to its original grandeur. 

 What mattered was he was alive.

 “Take me to him, please, the two of you. Is he conscious?”

 “He’s been swimming more often, we try to let him go a few hours a day. He can’t swim as strong as I’m assumed he’s used to, what with the injuries to his fins. the burns have healed, including a rather grim one to his right gills.”

 I get up, Peter clutching him arm as if I will fall over and shatter into pieces, Charles waves his hand and Erik follows suit, an arm about him. “Oh, please you hopeless man.” he scoffs, though there is mirth in his voice, Erik only pulls him closer. “There’s an awful draft, and your skin is made of sandpaper. Although it’s not nearly as rough.”

Peter and Betsy try talking to me, but my ears are just about shot and I follow as we’re led down hallways and through secret passageways. The place is an extravagant maze, but good God if Kurt is somewhere hidden in it I will not complain.

 The one wide room we’re led to is in the back of the house, the walls are high, arching windows, and lining them are plants, some dangling with their foliage draping over the view of their wide expanse of lawn, others sitting in both miniature and gargantuan pots on the floor. The tile of the floor combined it with the windows makes for a wall of humidity that instantly hits us as we enter into it.   There’s furniture but the entire place is empty save for the two of us.

 And in the center, taking up most of the space is a pool and a figure floating gracefully, though slowly through it on the other side.

 “Kurt! You’ve a visitor!” Erik yells and the figure stirs, but it doesn’t move towards us. “You think we should use some bait?” Erik asks Charles, but Charles only shakes his head and glances towards me. “That’s all the bait we need.”

 So I walk over to the other side, nearly tripping over the slippery tile, but I near closer and closer to him and everything is racing and the colors of the greenhouse-swimming room are blurring together in a way that wold otherwise make me sick.

 “Mind yourself over there, he likes the deep end.”

 I crouch down, and with shaking hands, I reach into the pool, “Kurt, if you can hear me, grab me.”

 And grab he does.

 I’m pulled in just moment later, but the panic of such  thing never entirely comes, its just shock and joy and excitement and love. If Kurt intends to pull me to the bottom and devour me entirely, I will not deny him such luxury.

 Red, red rosy eyes open towards mine, and there will the feeling of lips and teeth and familiarity and Kurt, and god kill me now, I can drown right here with him next to me. I can just bloody drown right here.

 He pulls away and smiles, and I kiss him again, hands clutching in the back of his silky hair and he clings to me hard as I do him. His tail locks us in place, I want to stay under the water so he mustn’t see me crying and shaking and shaking and crying as I see his arms laced with bandages, as well as his tail, and some sort of contorted skin that goes about his gills, but I kiss them too. I want to kiss every part of him, every scale and rough patch of skin and scar and claw and every vicious and lovely part of him, I want to etch it so indelibly into my memory that on my deathbed it will be the last thing I recall.

 Gods, words like that seem so familiar.

 When my lungs being to burn and ache of air, we float back up to the surface gently, and I cough and cling to the sides of the pool, but only to have my face peppered in kisses by Kurt again.

 “God, I missed you, I missed you , my Kurt, my inamorata, I thought I lost you.’

 “I though you weren’t coming back, I thought they killed you, Varren.”

 I shudder and smile, “Please, please keep saying my name, I’ve missed that too.” he bites down on the edge of my ear. 

 “Varren, my human. Varren, my mad poet. Varren, mien Engel.” 

 I kiss him again and again, soaking wet and shaking and minding his bandages.

 “Good on you, Romeo, you’ve gotten your Juliet back!” Peter yells, I smile and wave him off, “I was talking about Kurt.” Betsy snorts and punches him and he holds her close.

 “I didn’t realize the connection was so intimate. Should we leave the two of you to be in love?” Charles asks, he’s a bit flushed and I look down, embarrassed.

 “And if you’ve any dry clothes, that’d be nice, please.” Kurt nibbles my ear, “No clothes.” he whispers, and I flush even more.

 “Hold off on that, then.” and Peter’s eyes widen and he hollers, Charles  ushers the two of the m out and Erik winks towards me and I turn back to Kurt.

 “You’re looking better.”

 “You’re not.”

 “It’s been a nasty week.”

 “Charles and Erik, I guess they felt sorry for you, for me as well. They bought me for five hundred pounds.” I cough and look to Kurt, who is now a bit less bright.

 “I thought they’d killed you when they took you outside.”

 “And I thought they’d have killed you once you left, I saw you in that tank and  - Kurt, I’m so sorry, I wish I could’ve helped you, but everything went so fast.”

 He kisses me again, soft, “Be glad we’re both alive, Varren. Be glad I can see you again.

 Kurt silences me, he makes my tongue feel clumsy and my words feel ugly, and he sets my body alight with his skin and his eyes and his voice laced with both caring and hazard.

 I kiss him, slowly and languidly and I feel at home again. 

 


 

 Kurt recalls the night in scraps, but its enough for me to piece together. He says Betsy had gone off duty for the night and had stayed in the washroom with him for a little while. My Father had told her to lock the doors to the house should he not return, as soon as Betsy left Kurt and went downstairs there was an awful bang, and screaming and soon they came to take him.

 He showed me the new scar, long gashes that sliced through the curving intricate ones of before, told me they stabbed him with a syringe and everything went fuzzy until they put him in the tank.

 “I don’t know, I was awake, but my body was asleep. I could hear and feel and I knew I was moving, but I couldn’t open my eyes until we got back to that place with you and your Professor.”

 “I tried to wager you back, Kurt. But they told me they owned you, they made the whole deal that day when Professor Nur came.”

 Kurt shook his head, “I did my best stopping them, you know, I think you probably saw all the blood. I never said all of it was mine.” he attempts a smile and looks down and my eyes linger over the scar tissue of his gills. The afternoon is getting late and I’m sitting in my underclothes in a greenhouse-pool and talking to a fish.

 I miss the oddity.

 “Can you breathe alright?” I asked.

 “Better. I swim like Sheisse though.”

 “It’s more of an aggressive floating, really.” he splashes pool water into my face and I laugh.

 “What’s the occasion for Betsy being in such finery and prancing about with you, Varren? And your friend from the school.”

 My smile disintegrates and I stutter, “I - I’m leaving London. Going up north.”

 “But why?”

 “I had hold my Father that he obviously took everything he could from me. I figured you were dead, and after that night they took you, Betsy had left and didn’t return for nearly a week.” he gasped, his gills expanded and he winced slightly. “Where was she?”

 “Looking for me, the poor thing and she was taken by these men, whoremongers, I’m guessing. They had their way with her, thought to sell her but she was aided in her escape.” I lean back. “That week, I don’t know what I became, I was alone, I was unfeeling, it felt like after my mother had died only with more liquor.” I trail off, and Kurt places his hand over mine.

 “Is she alright? Are you?”

 “We’re getting better, I’m taking her with me, my father’s already filled her job for her, so it’s not like I can return her to him.”

 “She’s not his property.”

 “To him she is.” he frowns at this, sinking himself a bit further into the pool. “Is your father still at home?”

 “He should be, at this hour, probably finishing with his last few clients.” Kurt looked up at me as if I’d just slapped him in the face. “And you just left him?” he asked. “Well, yes? Why?”

 “All of this, me and Betsy and all your life, and you just left him, left him without doing anything?” his voice escalates and I’m confused. “What do you mean, ‘doing anything’? I left Canonbury without much regret of leaving him, i don’t need him and he has no need for me, I don’t understand your sudden intrigue.”

 “Because it seems strange, Warren. To be so passive to a man who nearly destroyed you, and I’ve seen you be violent and passionate before, but why so calm now, why do you insist on being the bigger person?”

 I frown, “Then what, Kurt? I’m choosing to leave, I will not give him the satisfaction to think that the separation will do any damage on me. I need something away from him, that was why I even set out to find you to begin with. I needed to be away, is that not enough?”

 “No, no, no the memory is still there. The anger and bruises and scarring is still there, the physical will heal but you won’t forget about him, he’s going to stay with you.”

 “I’m asking you again, then what do you suppose we do?”

 His smile contorts into something particularly sickening, like a cat being caught with a bird in its mouth as the owner much watch helplessly.

 “When is the soonest you can go back to London?”

 “It’s not even a two hour’s ride from here.”

 “Could we go back tonight?”

  “We?” 

 “You, me, Betsy and your friend. We all go back and you can reclaim your peace of mind.” I chuckle a bit nervously, “I already have peace of mind, Kurt.”

 “Do you, truly?” he asks, and his face doesn’t so much as flinch. I stare at him, “Listen.”

So I did. 


 

In short: Kurt had quite literally plotted murder.

 He spoke quickly, lapsing off sometimes into German and needing me to bring him back into the realm of the easily understandable. We simply return to London and do away with him.

 “You’re leaving London anyways.”

 “But they will find the murder was premeditated; me leaving London and taking the maid? They’ll view her as an accomplice, and view me as trying to simply tie up loose ends.”

 “But he deserves it, and I promise I will leave no evidence, it’ll be a disappearance, no body, just simply someone gone missing and to never be found.”

 “Where do you propose we put it?”

 “In the river near your house, obviously.”

 “Kurt, that’s ridiculous, if anything, he’ll wash up downstream.”

 “Will he?”

 I understood then, Kurt’s raised eyebrows and the smile showing the very ends of his rangers so suggestively. “You’re not saying - ”

 “Oh but I am, Schatz.”

 The thought is horrifying, Kurt is already a carnivore, but to hear the words - to see the malice in his face. “Kurt, no. I don’t think I could. This is -  I loathe my Father, but I’d rather leave him alive.”

 “And your Mummy?”  the way he says it, it sounds odd coming from him, as if the word is too sacred to be said by anyone else but me.

 “You intend to make me an orphan by the night’s end?”

 “The decision is yours, I just wanted to give you the idea.”

 I get up and stretch and then I see Peter come running in with the Red Girl Wanda just trailing him and laughing. “I’m faster than you!” he says, “No, you cheated! You took the short cut!” 

 “Admit it, your hair is so big it probably slows you down!” 

 “Never! Your legs are like trees!” she yells back.

 “You wound me, kid.”

 I clear my throat and they both turn towards me. “Oh, um - Charles and Erik want to know if you wanna stay for dinner, that is if you can handle a minute away from the love of your life.”

I cover myself with my semi-dried clothes. “Yes, yes. We can stay for dinner.”

 “Can you stay over?” Wanda asks, Peter looks at me pleadingly and I turn back to Kurt. “Maybe we could talk this over at dinner?” I ask.

 Peter nods and bows a bit towards Kurt, “Warren’s Fish-Wife, you’re looking well.” Kurt sputters, “Warren’s Ape Friend, the same to you.”

 I groan at the two of them, as Peter and Wanda take their exit and Kurt is looking at me so coyly.

 “After dinner?” he asks.

 “After dinner.”


 

 So we wait until after dinner, and in a hushed voice at Charles and Erik’s table I whisper everything to Peter.

 “Tonight?” he whispers. “I’m guessing so.” I shrug. 

 “Do you want to - ?  

 “I’m not sure.”

 Betsy was a few seats down with a group of children her age, blissfuly oblivious. “But he’s your Father.”

 “He’s never acted like one.”. “Neither has my Pa, but he pays for things.” “That doesn’t make a difference. The only difference between your father and mine is that I’ve lived with mine all my life, sorry to say.”

 “No, I understand. But murder - are we even capable?”

 “If nature is capable of creating a fish-ape-reptile and then making me fall in love with it, then I suppose.” I murder, taking another chunk out of my steak. 

 “And if we’re found?”. I set my jaw, “Then we die. We die like criminals.”

 We ate in silence.


I didn’t come back to Kurt right after dinner, instead I awaked about the grounds of the estate. The June air was a bit more like that of mid-spring, and the moon was tinted pink by the setting of the sun.

 The murder would look premeditated, and the list of suspects, an angry son, a maid and a friend, a body gone, and leaving nothing but an empty house to crumble and me and Betsy would be gone and Kurt, gods - what would I do with Kurt?

He could hide out with Betsy and I until the flurry of investigation subsides, and if no one spoke anything of it, perhaps there would be no chance of my getting imprisoned (and there was also a good sum of bribery money I could pay in order to keep some mouths shut).

 Kurt had been kidnapped and possibly tortured. Betsy, abused. Myself, more than twenty years of suffering and my Mother, only God knows what had happened to her before I was even born.

 And all my Father did was take and take and take. If there was to be a murder, it would not appear to be so, my Father’s life was not to be taken, it was to be given up.

 So, I asked Charles if there was a place I could type, and sure enough, he leant me his study for an hour and I composed my magnum opus.

 “To those who may find me in this state of absence,

 My life has been riddled with wrongdoing, to begin. My business, my marriage and my relationship with my son have all been crippled because of my selfishness and pride, and if there is to be one more to suffer on this Earth it shall be me.” 

 I wrote, I wrote and wrote as if my Mummy and Betsy and Kurt were all whispering in my ears, telling me the wrongs. All those people my Father had fooled and taken advantage of, all the maids he’d treated so poorly, every child in the street to whom he spit at and every bruise and lash he gave anyone. i wrote for all of them, in lament of their happiness and an ode to their troubles, I wrote. I told everything I knew, years and years of observation and simmering and crying and pain, I wrote like I’d been set ablaze.

  I checked it over again and went back down to the greenhouse-pool.

 “We’re leaving for Canonbury in an hour, I brought your coffin tank.”

  “You planned this?”

 “I was going to create a memorial out of it, but I suppose it’s much better if the original occupant is there.”

Kurt smiled and leaned up for a kiss.

 


I had asked Charles if Betsy could stay the night, and she’d been offered a place in Wanda’s room. Though she insisted she go with us, we wouldn’t tell her what for, and she somewhat begrudgingly took Wanda’s hand as she was led up to the little girls room for blankets and warm teacakes.

 “Goodnight, Warren and Peter.”

 “Sweet dreams, Elizabetsy.” I bowed and she shut the door.

 Kurt loaded into the back of the hansom, one Charles had given us (bless him). With a lurch and a slight whimper from Kurt at the sudden speed we were off into the night.

 If I could have my peace of mind, and my father repent for his sins in the same night - I would, and I drove us back.

 


 

Getting back into London proved easy enough, and into Canonbury just as much so. It was half-past ten and the streets were thinned. We pull through New River Park and I stop the horses, going to retrieve Kurt from the trunk. 

 “Are we alright - treasure?” I ask, lifting Kurt from his tank. He winces a bit as his tail unfurls but he nods, “I’m fine, Engel.

 “The two of you sicken me.’ Peter mumbles, still sitting in the cab. I carry Kurt behind the brush.

 “I still recall fondly the night we kissed here.”

 Kurt gives a soft smile, “There is room for more firsts, Varren.”

 “It always is with you, Kurt mine. Always another first.” I kiss his forehead and ease him into the river and he floats, “Does it hurt?”

 “No, I just, I just haven’t been in water that moves for a while, takes a moment to get used to.” he holds to the side of the bank. 

 “We should be back soon, are you alright? Do your bandages hurt?”

 “I let Erik replace them before we left, while you and Peter were stuffing yourselves with desert.”

 “Don’t blame me, the fudge is simply heavenly.”

 Kurt kisses me to shut me up, and I have never adored such a silencer. “Just bring me dinner, liebling.

 And I blow him as kiss before disappearing into the brush.

 


Returning to the whitewashed brick of the house, and it is odd really. For a place I only felt this very afternoon, it feels very much like returning home after I’ve been away for weeks.

 Odd how this will no longer be my home, nor anyone else’s.

 I have no key, so I lead Peter through the broken back window and I am thankful, thankful for my rage the night I broke in. “Where’s your Pa?”

 “Upstairs, he should be.”

 We creep from the kitchen to the pantry and finally are bathed in the soft glow of light when he reach the dining room. “What have you come back for?” is Father’s voice from the parlor. I nearly shriek and Peter holds onto me, my Father is sitting in the love-seat, cigar in one hand, book in the other.

 “I left something.” I say, Peter following behind me as I slowly ease myself into the light, my voice is devoid of the hollowness of when I usually talk to him, there’s feeling to it, a certain lightness.

 “Where’s Betsy?”

 “With a friend.” I hold the letter in my hand, clutching tight. “Just let me go upstairs, it - it was something for Kurt.”

 His eyebrow arches and he stares, hard. I look towards Peter as if we can hear the rushing of both of our hearts. “Fine.”

I nearly smile, but I must keep cover, keep it up that he must’ know. My footsteps are quiet as I ease into his office so he doesn’t hear me from below and I’m thankful that his bedroom his located so close to it.

 “Lord help me.” I say and I leave his last writing on the bed.

 I leave through the study again and look at the other end of the hall, trying to think. Father was supposed be asleep when we did this, but here we was, wide awake as if he’d been waiting on us the whole night through. I went back in my room, and into the washroom where the morphine sat by the window.

 I thank Mummy and go back downstairs again.

 “You alright, Peter? You look nearly sick.” Father turns towards me and Peter worries his lip, bewildered. I widen my eyes when Father’s not looking, and Peter understands and begins to play at it with me. 

“Nothing, Warren, it’s nothing.” he says, quietly.

 “He looks fine to me. Leave.” Father says, but I ignore him, stepping off the last of the stairs and walking slowly towards Peter.

 “No, he looks flushed. Look at him, Peter are you sure?” I ask again, Peter paused before smiling, eyes playful. “I’m just fine.”

 “Are you, darling?” I press closer, our chests are touching and I feel his arms come about my shoulders. 

 “Perfect.” I hear Father shouting, his outrage, the names he calls the two of us, of me and the boy I used to love but left that aside in favor of mischief and simplicity, we don’t kiss, just embrace, and it’s already gotten father raving.

 When he goes to separate us is when we strike.

 Peter grabs him and he calls out, he calls him an invert, and abomination, disgusting and vile. I yell for Peter to hold him before going back to the top of the stairs where I rested the bottle and coming back to see the two of them practically wrestling. But Peter, being youthful and strong despite his hair, is winning.

 “Hold him, Maximoff. I want to see him.”

 Peter does, and I shove the bottle into my Father’s open mouth, making sure he drinks and drinks and drinks like I have. Drinks to cleanse himself, and never stops.

 When the bottle is empty I place it in my back pocket and my Father begins to grow lax.

 “Come on, we have to get back to the park.”

 We’re outside, carrying him like pallbearers, except he isn’t dead and is only mumbling incoherently in a dazed, floating state.

But I give it to Kurt, I do adore his floating more.

 


 

When we reach back to New River he is barely moving and I motion for Peter to follow me behind the brush, with me carrying my Father’s head and Peter on the legs and we set him down by the banks.

 “Kurt!” I call, there’s some moments of silence before he emerges, and he looks at my Father voraciously.

 “All of it, for me?” he asks, as if I’d just gifted him a diamond, I smile, “Nothing less, my love. Though I’m afraid the meat has aged a bit.”

 “No matter, it has a bit more chew to it. Throw him in, please?” Peter nods and with a heave, my father is tossed in.

 That wakes him, the cold rush of the water hitting him and his is now at flull attention. “What have you done boy?”

 “Nothing I will regret too much.” I say coolly.

 “You think you can leave me so easily you worthless invert, you own nothing, you’ve done nothing you will die fickle and weak like your mother and I will be there to shit in your grave.”

 I only laugh and Peter looks toward me with wide eyes, “Damn, you make me happy I don’t have a Pa.” he say  and I chuckle. “Nonsense, Peter. I don’t either. I have a self-important snake who will only reap what he sows.”

 Father looks at me, confused, before he feels Kurt’s arms wrap bout him from behind, and his grin is predatory and his teeth graze at my Father’s ear.

Auf Weiderssen, wertlos mensliche.” he whispers, and they are gone under the current.

 Father struggles and screams, tries to cry out, but when the pool of red becomes too much and Kurt pulls him farther and farther and farther. There is the muffled sound of tearing and cracking and Peter looks uneasy.

 I don’t move a muscle.

  ‘And a dirge for the sinner, 

who has repented too late.

And a praise for the monster, 

the bringer of fates

 A lament for the maiden, 

who has lost her only son.

And an orchestra for the orphan, 

who is gone, gone, gone. 

 Some time later, Kurt resurfaces, red covering his torso and falling from his mouth and he is picking at his fangs again.

 “How was he?” Peter asks, sitting on the bank, I sit besides him. 

 “I’ve had otters that were better, and Betsy’s honey cakes are nicer, too.”

 “Honey cakes?”

 Kurt explains the dynamics of the cakes  and I laugh, the moon shines brightly and my body feels as if it can take flight.

 There is peace, there is quiet, there is love.

Chapter Text

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.”

 “How much?”

 “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.

 “Bette!”

 “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.

 “That’s terrible.”

 “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.