Tw: domestic abuse, death, the awful reliance on translation websites
Word count: 17.8k
One moment there was nothing and then there was everything.
“That’s all it took? One big boom to make all the inky blackness vibrant with color? …It’s all so beautiful don’t you think?”
“No. Not at all. How could you find beauty in this when they intend to break us apart now that it’s done? We’re nothing more than their playthings to do with as they wish.”
“Oh, my love, are you afraid?”
“You are. I know you better than anything else. The thought of it seems so overwhelming, but we’ll make it through. I’m not afraid.”
“How aren’t you?”
“Because you’ll be there.”
“With all that chaos? How would we even know each other? We could pass each other and not even realize… What is existence if I’m not with my beloved?”
“I’d know you in any other lifetime. No matter what happens, we’ll know each other. Do you think you could ever forget me?”
“Of course not. How would I? The emptiness I feel at the thought of not having you close is enough to remind me. It feels so bleak.”
“…I think it’s time.”
“We can be brave… I love you, all of my being loves you.”
“I love you, I promise to find you again as quickly as I can.”
Dr. Laszlo Kreizler 3734
You stared blankly at the wall thinking about nothing and everything all at once. He was speaking but you couldn’t focus on the words, everyone of them slipped past without any thought.
“YN,” Laszlo sighed hoping to grab your attention. “YN. Please if I’m to help you, you need to help me understand. I can’t manage this without your cooperation.”
“I apologize, Dr. Kreizler,” your face heated up as you brought your attention back to him, “I…”
“I think we’re in order for a break.” He closed his journal and set down his pen. “We should go for a walk through the city.”
You looked at him, confused, “Am I allowed that?”
“I can make the arrangements. If anything Detective Sergeant Isaacson would have to trail us but he’d allow us more than enough privacy. Would you like to leave this place for a while?”
“I’d like to leave forever,” you sighed, “but I can make due with an hour or two.”
It took Laszlo a bit of argument but he managed to convince them a walk would be good for your mental health and improve the likelihood that you’d actually speak with him about the events that had taken place. He instructed Isaacson to remove the handcuffs before you left the jail, sparing you some dignity without a proper change of clothes. As you made the walk to the park, you took in the sights of the city. Loud children playing in the streets, angry men, neatly dressed women judging people from the sidelines. It was strange how you could miss it so much after weeks locked away. Things that all used to cause so much annoyance before.
“Are you enjoying our outing?” Laszlo asked, filling the silence between the two of you.
You smiled at him meekly, “I’ve been stuck in my head for so long, I wasn’t aware how much I missed it. Real life happening all around… Not just the same four walls closing me in.”
“Sometimes I find myself with the same thought.”
“I live my life searching through the heads of others, helping them make due with their demons to keep myself free from being alone with my own for too long. Then I come up for fresh air and realize so much has happened since my last breath. You never realize how lovely just the air could be.”
“I’m sorry I’ve been keeping you down here for so long.”
“Don’t apologize, I want to walk this path with you,” the tone he used ensured he meant that as a person and not just your alienist.
“Everytime I think about the night… I lose all sense of self. There are things a person would rather not have to live through again… it all goes black when I try,” you sighed, annoyed with yourself, “I’m keeping you here longer than you deserve.”
“Take your time. I don’t mind it at all.”
Thus began a new regimen in your weekly visits. He ensured you didn’t miss the outside world a painful amount and slowly chipped away at your walls. Learning more of your childhood. The things you had been through, but every time he’d attempt to push to that night, you’d revert back to your quiet ways. There was a block there that wouldn’t budge. Though you always made the attempt to go through with it.
“My husband was a nice man, in the beginning,” you started, hoping this would be the time everything was pushed through, “Silly declarations of love in front of my friends that they’d say I’m so lucky to receive, flowers every time he saw me, recited a couple of poems to me in the nights we shared before getting married. In all ways, he seemed perfect.”
“Perfection is often a charade. We play at the idea of being flawless that we create too many to count striving for it.”
“Yes,” you nodded, “I’ve come to that realization too. Though in those years I was a few years from being a girl. My head still ran with those sweet stories. Countless times I’ve read Austen, wishing for a Darcy of my very own.”
“Darcy is an extremely flawed character.”
“That explains my taste in men,” you commented, mostly to yourself, “What’s Darcy like without rose tinted glasses?”
“He’s no different from the arrogant and privileged men we deal with in our day to day. The ones who always feel as if they’re the most handsome or have the most money. Being born into their position in society and playing the role acting as if they earned any bit of it.”
“Dr. Kreizler, a lesser person would point out some self insight there. Though I’d make a good argument for you earning every bit of it.”
He looked at you fondly, “It’s a blessing you’re not then. As I was saying, he’s praised as such an ideal lover when he considers Elizabeth lesser than going so far as to hate himself for loving someone so low on the social ladder. Their interaction at the dance was Darcy at his most comfortable, saying what he knew he could without any societal repercussions.”
“Who are we when all eyes are off of us?”
“Worse people, a majority of the time.”
“What a pity that is. Though I can’t say I contributed anything good when I was alone.”
“Why did you do it?”
“He said I wouldn’t,” you admitted, looking away from Kreizler, “In every way he controlled my life. Slowly, of course, slow enough that I didn’t realize he was the root of the issues. Slow enough that I didn’t realize he was bandaging wounds he had created himself. Every relationship was tainted by him. When I did realize he was working on prying me away from my family and, by the looks of it, he succeeded.”
He wrote down what you had said, knowing this would be the beginning of a breakthrough. “You still haven’t received any word from your family?”
You scoffed, “And risk their stance in society? We can’t expect them to allow the public image to be stained any further. Can we? What would Darcy think of them? There’s already a murder in the family.”
“But what was the reason for all this? Nothing in your history would suggest such a thing. Intelligent, charming, and far from what your crime would suggest. There’s nothing that would suggest such a violent act.”
“He was far from what he had built himself up to be.” You watched the children playing, reminiscing of the times you were in those crowds instead of on this bench. How simple things used to be. “When I started pushing against him, things became physical. After that I was more than eager to do as he wished. I was bonded to him by marriage and I didn’t think anyone would believe me, he was so good when he was around others. He held all the financial control… What could I do?”
He frowned at the information. It was a theory and he was saddened for it to be proven true. “I’m sorry you went through that.”
“It’s not your fault, Doctor. Maybe mine. Definitely his.”
“The fault was never yours. You were his victim.”
“Not in the eyes of the public or the law.”
“What happened that night, YN?”
You swallowed against the lump forming in your throat. “He was going to hurt me again. I’ve grown numb to it. I found that if I just lived in a memory while it happened, I wouldn’t live the experience as much so to speak. There would be bruises and maybe I’d be “too ill to leave the house” but that’s easier to live through than the moment it’s happening. The reactions he wanted weren’t happening, so he picks up a knife. The smile that spread on his face when he noticed the fear. I was frozen at first… the blade cold as he ran it along my arm. Speaking of every horrible idea he had thought of…” Tears spilled as you remembered. “When he pressed it against my neck there was a fight I didn’t realize I had left in me. Self preservation took over...My will to live must have been strong because I have no idea how I managed to grab the knife from him.”
Laszlo took out his handkerchief and handed it to you. “Each stab must have felt closer to freedom. Some irrational side thought it was the only way. But what this means, is that everything that you had done that night was in self defense. He was your tormentor, YN.”
“I’m not sure anything can be of use now. Everyone is set in their beliefs. I've been quiet for too long.”
“I’ll do everything in my power to help you out of this.”
True to his word and with a hell of a lot of argument, he managed to take you out of the situation. With the help of old friends that were willing to put themselves on a limb for you and the testimony of a previous courtship you hadn’t been aware he had, people quickly understood that you had done what you needed. Still, all of this came with conditions. Laszlo had talked them to at least letting you be a member of his institution as a patient and a hire. Saying that he could help improve your mental health and ensure you wouldn’t go back into the world without a thing to your name.
Throughout the year at the institute, you couldn’t help taking longer than necessary glances at the man. He was in his element with his patients, the passion for his craft evident with every child that crossed his doors. Especially the boy he had taken a particular interest in. A couple of times you had caught him practicing a magic trick or two once he realized the child would open up to the sort of thing. The light blush that would showcase on his cheeks when you asked for a private show, just worked to enamor you more. Over time your walks had turned into dinners, which became late nights in his study. Occasionally your hands would graze by each other resting there for a moment before you pulled away. Every day that passed, the two of you grew closer. He really did seem to be a truly kind man the more you got to know him.
Which is why a couple of weeks before your final day at the institute, you told him you were resigning. He seemed to be upset, but nodded saying nothing of it. Instead he chose to ignore how he had felt and went back to your therapy session. The usual friendly banter after the session was cut short as he excused himself, saying he had too many things to work on this week.
When the day finally came, Laszlo signed your release forms and paid you the money you had earned. You tried to deny the extra he had given you, but he claimed it was a gift and refused. Sparing one final glance at him, you thanked him for everything he had done for you. He nodded, saying it was very little compared to what you truly deserved.
You walked away before he could pour out any more honeyed words. There was still a part of you that hung on to the sweet words you had read in your youth, but a bigger part was stained with blood and knew how things could turn. If Laszlo wasn’t who he presented himself as… He had to be, you couldn’t handle the truth if he wasn’t.
Instead of risking your heart and attempting the possibility, you ran away.
In truth you had missed him greatly. From daily visits to not seeing him at all was an extreme change. You attempted to tell yourself you didn’t see him in that light. It was just the situation of everything making it feel like real emotions. He was only your very kind doctor that did everything he could for his patients. You were confusing your gratefulness for infatuation. The emotions were only disguised as something deeper. Nevermind how you enjoyed seeing him talk of his passions, that one rouge curl, the glasses you’d love to see him wear, or the occasional wonder of how his beard would feel against your skin, those were meaningless things.
At least, that’s what you had told yourself to go on.
You had taken a walk through the park. All the miles you and Laszlo had trekked had caused long walks to be a sort of destressor. When you’d return home you’d think clearer and feel much calmer. That was until you had seen him sitting on a bench. He was reading through his journals, looking to the past to help a patient probably, having yet to notice you. There were two options here but the fact that you had missed his company only left one.
Taking the seat next to him, he looked over in curiosity. “YN,” he breathed, closing his journal.
You smiled at him, “It’s been a long time, Dr. Kreizler.”
“Laszlo. I’m not your doctor or employer anymore.”
He took off his glasses, “How have you been?”
You faltered. The last few months you’ve gotten a job, an apartment, but did nothing much outside of what was necessary. “I’ve been existing I suppose.”
“You need to live, YN.”
“It’s hard. My reputation as a black widow seems to chase after me at the most random of times.”
“Don’t call yourself that, we’ve discussed this before.”
“It’s hard not to,” you sighed, “I rather this not turn into one of our therapy sessions, Laszlo. If that’s fine.”
“Of course it is.”
You decided to turn the question on him, “How have you been?”
This time he faltered, “Suppose I don’t live my life as I advise others.”
“You’re a busy man. All those children on top of the extra cases you take when they catch your interest, I really couldn’t blame you when time slips by.”
“Come up for a fresh breath of air with me?”
He frowned, taking in your reaction. “I keep going over our interactions, looking for answers. Reasons why you’re avoiding me and I can’t find any.” He looked over at you, scanning you for any clue you’d give him. “I apologize for offending you greatly and if you could tell me exactly what happened, I’ll be sure to repair it. I must confess, the absence of your company has been undeniable.”
“It wasn’t your fault,” you started, “I was scared away, yes, but by myself mainly.”
“What scared you?”
Opening your mouth, you closed it again. The words hard to form.
Laszlo turned to you fully, “Please speak to me, YN. Since everything with Mary, I’ve learned that being so hesitant in my relationships was a flaw of mine. Things slipped through my fingers and I’m unwilling to let that happen again. If my… fondness for you was too noticeable, I never once thought you’d reciprocate.” Taking a shuddered breath, you nodded, looking away from him. A telltale sign that what you would say would be as honest as you could possibly be, he had learned. Inwardly he braced himself for a destruction of his heart.
“Emotions are frightening things. They’re extreme. Hate someone and everything they do is repulsive. Care… love. Is another beast. It taints everything in a way that goes unnoticed. Things others may do that cause instant annoyance is more palatable and the simple is becomes that much better.”
“The simple way a person looks when they’re lost in thought sweetens them that much more.”
“Yes, but I can’t risk it again. The sweetness of you is so tempting, Laszlo, but it’s terrifying.”
“I wouldn’t hurt you,” Laszlo promised, “I can’t promise things will be perfect and you’ll always be happy with me. Life happens. Arguments. Maybe you’d get upset with me when I get swarmed by my cases or another thing happens… But I swear to never hurt you intentionally.”
“No,” he shook his head, “For months I've harbored this fondness for you. Then you went away and it has been frustrating to say the least. I know this is too forward, but I at least have to tell you once.”
“We can’t- I can’t.”
“Do this. Do everything again. I’m not sure if I’m capable of loving correctly anymore or the trust it requires. I’m a monster and happiness is unattainable. Why let you stay in this breathless place with me when you can do better? You deserve so much more, Laszlo. I can’t provide that for you.”
Laszlo stood to crouch down in front of you, ensuring you’d look at him without force. “I’m a patient man with issues of my own. This wouldn’t be simple by any stretch of it but I’m certain years down the line there won’t be any complaints. If you care for me as I’m starting to suspect you do, take this one chance with me.”
“Laszlo even if we attempt whatever this could be. I don’t deserve you.”
“I’m the judge of that, wouldn't you say?”
You frowned, “I’m a burden of a person. People will talk about you in negative ways. Then what? Allow you to spend your free time convincing me that I’m not what I truly am. No.”
“The only burden you have is the weight of the things that have happened to you. Nothing about you is monstrous in the slightest. Heaven knows, I’ve spoken and dealt with people that have done much worse with no reasoning other than they wished to.” Laszlo smiled to himself, remembering a conversation from long ago, “And you know I’m not one to follow Darcyisms. People may speak as they wish as long as you’re by my side, I’m not exactly known for keeping quiet.”
You smiled, remembering the conversation, “I’m not looking for a Darcy anymore. That’s probably somewhat of a soothing thought to you.”
“You can do a fair bit better than him,” he agreed. “I’d like it very much if we saw where this could go. I think we’d be very good for one another.”
“Why do you think so?”
“We know each other already,” he stated simply, “Our time together brought us closer, but I denied it because of my role in your life. It would be unfair to think my fondness for you was reflected in any way. But still I found myself more and more enamored with every word. We’d work because we can understand each other’s worst demons. And we’d know when space is necessary versus when a gentle hand would be welcomed.”
“I’m afraid of you,” you said, though you still reached to push back a curl that freed itself, “What you mean… The things that could happen… What if you’re not who I think you are? What if I’m exactly what you try to say I’m not.”
Laszlo thought before speaking, “There’s only one thing I’ve hidden from you. Sometimes it drives me more than I care to admit. …While you had to find your abuser I was born to mine. One second my father would be kind, the next angry. Cruel words. Worse actions. I figured out how to fall from the stairs without hitting my head too badly by the time I was five,” he coughed, hiding the pain the memories brought.
You frowned, realizing all the pain the doctor must relive when he helped his patients. Suddenly when he encouraged children to think of people they were wronged by during aggressive sports made sense. “I’m sorry, you don’t have to continue.”
“The point is, I am slightly different, but not in any way that would ever dream of hurting you. In a sense I feel a similar monstrosity to myself at times. I can’t say my past doesn’t choke me or cause me to act out of normal at times… I’ve gotten better but things are hard to work through. But I can promise I’ll be the best I could possibly be.”
“Laszlo, I care for you.”
“And I you.”
“However I’m not sure I can put the right amount of trust into this.”
“I have more than enough.”
And so began the slowest waltz. At first you had remained friends, you were still unwilling to cross that line that kept him safe. He was more than willing to follow along as long as you remained a part of his life in some way. Dinners and opera shows we’re back on the table and he used them to his advantage. Wooing you gently on your nights out as if you were already courting. Though you couldn’t deny yourself of the man for much longer than a couple months. Talk started when it was an official courtship. People wondered if Laszlo would succumb to the person he worked so hard to save.
“Darling, why do you listen to them?”
“They voice the thoughts that whisper in my head. I know, rationally I couldn’t. But irrationally, sometimes, I still wonder if it’s in my nature.”
Laszlo took your hands in his, “That isn’t your nature. Days and nights we’ve spent together, not once have you done anything that would imply such a thing. Your past was traumatic and you’ll carry that, I won’t lie and say it goes away. Though at some point you need to believe you’re more than what has happened.”
Laszlo helped you shoulder the weight of your past. His kiss soothed the hurt and doubt as he pulled you close. Everytime felt like a vow to shield you from yourself and signified how much he trusted you. If any of this was hard work to him, he never showed it.
Years down the line. When everything was said and done. You stood watching as Laszlo sat with his daughter on his lap as Paulie performed his newest tricks for them. Your daughter shrieked in amazement, hopping off of her father’s lap and running to force her brother to do the tricks on her. Laszlo motioned for you to join him on the couch. Once you were comfortable against him, he pressed a kiss to your temple.
“We’ve made something magnificent here,” he sighed in contentment, looking back to his children, “Thank you.”
Andrea Maroski 3281
You walked along the ocean shore, not really paying attention. Having trailed the path so many times, it wasn’t difficult to just walk it without a thought. Since your students didn’t join you this afternoon it was easy to just relax into the sounds of nature. However, when an increasingly worrying figure made its way into your view, you couldn’t help rushing to their side. Remembering the particularly horrible storm last night, you wondered what the man had been through to end up here. The old women from a nearby cottage had met you to see what was all of the commotion.
Kneeling beside him, you pushed the young man onto his back. Immediately you checked on his breathing and pulse. “It’s weak. Can you please watch over him? I need to find the doctor.”
It might have been considered rude in any other circumstance but you couldn’t find it in you to wait for their response. They would understand your rush. Finding the doctor wasn’t that difficult of a feat. He had taken to attempting to romance the poor German girl that had come to town recently so where she was, he had to be. Once you found him, you all but pushed the older man to his car and climbed into the passenger side much to his annoyance.
“How will he even pay for the care?”
“I’ll handle it,” you waved him off, “Please hurry.”
“Why are you so worried?”
“You’re not? He could be dying. Aren’t you supposed to care more than anyone else, Doctor? What with that oath and all.”
He sighed, tired of your presence considering you had pulled him away from Olga and forced him to work on a day that should have been one where he twiddled his thumbs.
The sisters had moved the man into a free room in their home. The doctor made you leave the room to inspect the man. He’d live, thankfully, but he should be kept warm and off his injured ankle once he woke. Despite your attempts the women wouldn’t consider your request to take care of him in your home. Though Ursula seemed to fight more for the cause, Janet just didn’t like the idea of you being alone with a strange man. Who would know how he’d react. Looking at him, you felt he wouldn’t be anything less than sweet. You stressed for them to call on you should they need anything before making your leave.
Still, you couldn’t help your mind wandering to the sleeping man. Throughout the night you wondered if he had woken. How confused he must have been. How afraid. The physical pain he must be feeling after a fight against the sea. All of it hurt your heart to think about. For peace of mind, you decided to visit him as soon as possible. You’d do your work at school and go over to the sister’s home after.
In the following afternoon, some of your students followed after you like little ducklings as you made your way through the town. They knew the protocol of Monday’s after all. You’d always take some time out of the day to buy them all a couple sweets as encouragement to put forth their best efforts in their studies. Despite your worry, you couldn’t find it in you to disappoint them, their toothy smiles always seemed to brighten you in the worst of moods. You grabbed an assortment bag for the mystery man too, unsure of what he’d like, but he seemed the type to have a sweet tooth.
Janet seemed annoyed at your sudden appearance at her home, though she was always more of a proper person. Dropping in unannounced and uninvited must have been scandalous in her books. You blushed in embarrassment at her frustration before asking if you could meet the man. Sighing, she nodded her head.
You knocked on the door softly.
“Come in!” Ursula called out.
When you opened the door, the man’s brown eyes- he had brown eyes -looked up at you expectantly. He reminded you of your students with the way he looked at things. There was a childlike wonder and the need to learn more about everything he could in his glance.
“Cześć,” he spoke, his voice sounding a bit too rough. Though a night struggling in the ocean may do that to a person.
“Hello,” you breathed out, slightly nervous, “I’m glad to see you’re awake. I brought these for you.” Showing him the small colorful bag you pointed at him.
He waved you over to his side. “Em, Andrea Marowski.”
“Andrea,” you shared small shy smiles over his name, “YN LN.”
“YN,” he took your hand in his own, pressing a kiss to the back of it, “Jesteś taka piękna moja własna syrena.”
The two of you were pulled into an almost familiar comforting bubble as you cupped his face gently. He leaned into your hand relaxing almost instantly, his eyes closed as he seemed truly calm given his situation. It was a wonder how comfortable he made you feel too.
Ursula clapped her hands, making the pair of you remember there was more to the universe. “Well, as you can see, Andrea isn’t fit for any visitors at the moment. He just woke up and can’t communicate properly. Maybe he’s facing some delirium too. I suggest you go home now.”
You frowned before looking at Andrea. “I’ll see again when I can,” you told him, setting the bag of treats in his hand, “I’m glad you’re okay.”
“Dziękuję kochanie.” Andrea smiled as he found a red lollipop
He frowned as you waved him goodbye.
Again didn’t seem to come soon enough. Between the sister’s reactions that day you couldn’t find it in you to go where you weren’t wanted. No matter how hard your heart tried to pull you over there. Andrea wrapped you completely around his finger in a matter of moments. You couldn’t shake the man from your head. Yet the most you could do was hope Andrea was okay. He had to be though, the women wouldn’t let any harm come his way. Through trickles of rumors you satisfied your wonders of his health. The doctor had given him crutches, Janet had sent Dorcas to the market to be particularly difficult for a specific fish she needed to make a Polish dish, and a man had left him with his violin for entertainment.
You couldn’t help but smile at the thought. Your mystery man could play. Quiet beautifully from what Olga said she could hear from her home.
It was a few weeks before you made your trek back along the ocean side. This time a handful of your students joining you. You took a seat bringing out your book, listening to the sounds of the sea as you lost yourself in another world, though remembering to look up every so often at your little ducklings.
You looked up from your book, smiling wildly at the man rushing to your side. “Andrea! How nice it is to see you!”
“You didn’t come again.”
“I’m sorry. The sisters seemed protective and I didn’t want to intrude. I was thinking about you.”
“Think of you too. Very… pretty.”
“Very handsome,” you winked at him, “Are you coming to the party tonight?”
He seemed to struggle for a bit, “Party?”
You mimed a violin, humming a random melody. “Music.” Standing, you grabbed his hands and swayed with him to the sound of the ocean. “Dancing. Fun.”
“Ah, przyjęcie!” He nodded, raising his arm to twirl you.
“Przyjęci. Will you come?”
Tommy, a particularly curious boy came up to you too, looking at the violin case in Andrea’s hand. “Can you play some music, mister? Please?”
Andrea smiled at the boy, almost reluctantly letting go of your hand to ruffle his wet hair fondly, “Yes!”
Tommy called the other kids to sit and watch Andrea play his violin. You couldn’t help but be just as enthralled as the children. Andrea’s passion radiated from every note. The music he played sounded as if it came from the depths of his soul, calling out to you. As his music came to a stop, the children tapered off. Leaving the pair of you alone once again.
“That was beautiful, Andrea. Thank you. It’s so rare the children get an experience like that.”
He smiled proudly at the compliments. “Song is for you.”
For the second time he brought your hand up to his lips to leave a simple kiss. This time when you parted your hands stayed connected for as long as you could manage.
At the party you sat with your group as Andrea was dragged to another table to sit and drink with the older men. Though you could feel his gaze heavy on you throughout the night. Occasionally you’d glance up at him and he’d be unashamed in his stare, instead he’d just smile widely at getting to have your attention. Still when your friend asked for a dance, you didn’t say no. Andrea took over the music and you could still feel his eyes burning through your skull. The music seemed to have a slightly angrier note than the one you heard earlier. You wondered if anyone else could hear it too. When his song ended and another started you had yet to pull away from your dance partner.
Until someone tapped on their shoulder. “My turn.”
You couldn’t help an amused huff as their hands were replaced with his. “It took you long enough.”
“You only dance with me,” he said, the alcohol lingering in his breath may have contributed to the sudden brashness of his words.
It wasn’t long before the two of you were drunkenly stumbling along the path to your home. It was closer than the sister’s and Andrea’s ride was too drunk for your taste. You couldn’t let your mystery man survive the sea just to be lost in a motorcycle accident.
Andrea playfully pinched at your sides as you fumbled at unlocking the door.
“Stop it,” you giggled, pushing him away.
He laughed loudly, still not keeping his hands to himself as he pulled you by the waist to leave a kiss on your temple. Tucking his head in between your shoulder and neck, he hummed the drinking song he had learned that night. You finally managed the lock and led him in, turning you caught your neighbor’s disapproving glance through the window.
People would talk but when didn’t they.
Taking him to your room, you helped him push off his vest. “Goodnight, Andrea.” You motioned for him to take the bed.
“No, no.” Andrea grabbed your hand before you could turn to leave. “Stay. Please?” He pressed your hand against his cheek.
With those big eyes looking at you expectantly, how could you ever say no?
You nodded and smiled as he pressed a soft kiss to your palm. If this was friendship with Andrea, you could only imagine what it was to be loved.
Andrea kicked off his shoes and laid himself comfortably on your bed. You joined him on the bed, less bothered than you should when his arm wrapped around your waist and his head rested against your chest. The night ended in drunken talk of nothing in particular and a couple soft touches that would make your heart flutter. Occasionally you could feel the heat radiate from his face when you played with the hair at the nape of his neck.
In the morning the two of you walked the well worn path alongside the beach. Andrea was too embarrassed to show up at the cottage hungover so the solution ended up being a picnic on the shore. Though the ever rowdy man took to tossing grapes at you as you attempted to read. You playfully swatted the book at his arm. Before you even realized it the book was swiped from you and he stood, running away as quickly as he could.
“Andrea!” You laughed, rising up to chase after him, “Give it back!”
The two of you ran along. You constantly missed grabbing him by the smallest of distances. All of it was so carefree. It felt like the days when you didn’t have any worries in the world and your clothes always seemed to be stained with grass and mud showing off how much fun you had during the day.
Finally you had caught the sleeve of his shirt, but missed seeing a rock that made you trip bringing him down with you. Andrea laughed, uncaring that the water was soaking your clothes, and didn’t attempt to get up from his spot on the ground beside you.
“Sorry, syrena,” he showed you the book with its water damaged pages, “I’ll get a new one.”
You shook your head amused, resting back against your elbows, not minding the waves that continued to crash over the two of you. “You know, this is kind of like when I found you,” you fixed the hair that had fallen in front of his eyes, “You scared me a lot that morning.”
“I’m sorry,” he smiled at you sheepishly, “Powinieneś pocałował mnie, aby mnie obudzić.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Can I show you?”
“You can show me anything.”
“Okay,” he looked a little nervous, “You are me and I’m you. Yes?”
You laughed, but nodded.
“Sleep,” Andrea prompted you.
You closed your eyes. It was a moment before he brought his hand up to your face. His hand held your chin gently, titling your head up slightly as his thumb traced your bottom lip, signaling his intentions as giving you time to decline him. Your heart raced as you felt him move closer before his lips finally met yours. You let out a soft gasp of surprise, but kissed him back just as eagerly.
He pulled away from you a bright smile on his lips. “See? I waked up.”
You shook your head when you grasped what he had meant. “You’re ridiculous. Come back here.”
Again his lips met yours. You could feel his grin in the kiss. It wasn’t long after that he peppered your face with soft kisses before venturing down to your neck. You pulled his hair as he bit down on a sensitive spot, his tongue soothing it instantly.
“Andrea,” you moaned quietly.
“Jesteś mój,” he mumbled, pushing your hair away from your face, “Say ‘Jestem twój.’”
“Jestem twój,” you repeated after him, not caring what you had said, because the words were probably true either way.
“A ja jestem twój,” he promised.
Andrea leaned closer for a more lust driven kiss. This time you wrapped your legs around his waist, keeping him as close as physically possible. The water continued to lap away at you two but neither of you could attempt to care at the moment. Any and all thoughts were for each other only.
Loud gasp had you pulling away from each other instantly. You caught a glimpse of Ursula looking devastated before running away. Looking at Andrea, he seemed concerned watching the woman but not yet going after her. Taking your sleeve, you wiped up the lipstick that had smudged onto him.
“Go after her,” you said, adjusting his appearance as best you could.
“I see you tomorrow?”
“I’d like that.”
He gave you one final kiss, ruining the work you had put in cleaning him up before standing. Andrea helped you up too before leaving to catch up with the woman. Sighing you made your way to the shore, ruined book in hand. Listening to pebbles crunching under little feet you saw the trio of your students that always hung around together. Great, it seems like this little moment that you had would make its way to the parents. Suddenly Ursula’s interruption was more of a blessing than an annoyance.
“Is that your boyfriend?” Natalia asked.
“What have I told you about spying?”
“We were here first,” Jeffery insisted.
“Shut up!” Benjamin told the taller boy, “Is it?”
“We’re just good friends. Children, you need to stop prying. We’ve talked about this already.”
The three of them looked between each other before making grossed out faces.
Benjamin couldn’t hold it in anymore, “But we’re good friends! I don’t want to kiss them!”
“You don’t have to kiss them,” you sighed, deciding to bite the bullet, “He’s my boyfriend. We would just like to keep it a secret if you three wouldn’t mind.”
“Is he nice to you?”
“Of course he is, Nat! She wouldn’t just kiss anyone mean!”
“Jeff, I wasn’t asking you!”
“He bit her!”
“Children!” You clapped. They quieted down, clapping back at you to show their attention was yours. “We aren’t talking about my boyfriend anymore. I’ll tell you he’s very nice and you’re not to tell anyone because we’d like to keep it a secret for now.”
“Okay, but why did Ursula look so sad?”
You shrugged, “For that I have no answer. I suppose Andrea is finding out at the moment. Now I think it’s time everyone goes home, don’t you? Come along little ducks.”
They lined up behind you and you walked them back into town. You just hoped they wouldn’t talk too much. The thought of their parents on your back over a private moment made you shudder. There was never a sense of privacy in this little village. Imagine the things they’d say.
It wasn’t until Wednesday that you saw Andrea again. He had walked into your classroom, anger seething from him. The man paced in frustration, figuring out how to word what he wanted to say, as you straightened out the small room. You wondered how he found you, but figured he’d ask someone and they’d readily give him directions. Finally he sat down, setting his face in his hands.
“What’s wrong, Andrea?”
“Boris Danilof,” he said, his hands muffling the sound.
“I’m sorry, darling, I don’t understand.”
“They lie! Olga brother Boris Danilof and they no tell me.”
You raked your brain for answers. “The violinist? And Ursula and Janet lied to you about him?”
He nodded impatiently, “Yes! He wants I play with him. Olga sent letter and they say no thing. They no say why. Ursula no talk to me since kiss. I no understand why.”
“Well, I’m sorry they lied to you, but there has to be a good reason. Olga is a stranger too. No one really knows her,” you tried to reason with him, “Hopefully they were just being protective and wanted to make sure she wasn’t lying before speaking with you.”
“She not lying. He’s best and wants to meet me.”
“Then,” you smiled, cupping his cheek gently, “Let’s celebrate it instead of being so angry. This can be really good, right? We can have dinner and a couple drinks. You should be happy.”
He sighed and pressed a kiss to your palm. “Yes, but sad.”
“I know, it must be disappointing but I’ve seen them and they do care about you. Don’t be too sad.”
“If I leave will you sad?”
You nodded, deciding being honest was something you needed to do. “Yes. Something about you is so special to me, but if leaving is what you need to do, I wouldn’t be angry.”
Andrea held your hand and pressed kisses to your fingertips. “Then I stay.”
“No. You should go. I’d never ask you to miss out on something like this.”
He stood, pressing his forehead to yours. “I will come back for you and we live long, happy life.”
Looking into his eyes you could see nothing but pure, genuine emotion. “Then be quick, darling.”
Andreas “Niki” Lauda 3376
Niki groaned internally as he made his way to the front of the room. Another one of these annoying press conferences where he’d get asked questions that have been asked countless times before. Still, he needed to be charming and likeable for the fans. More fans meant the better likelihood of his sponsors staying off his ass about his public image. However that simple fact didn’t make the process any less mind numbing.
That was until you stumbled to the room near the end of the meeting and went to your seat. You were absolutely drenched and scoffed when the notebook you had brought did very little for its intended purpose. Niki would have almost pitied you, if you weren’t one of his personal torturers. Though a small part of him wanted to fix the frown you wore.
“Mr. Lauda!” Someone took his attention from you as they asked their question.
When it was all said and done, Niki left the conference room. Reporters continued shouting their questions as he walked out. The next person was already lined up outside the door, new chum for the sharks to flock.
He heard the clack of heels following behind him.
Eyebrow raised, he turned to look at you. “My conference is over. You should have been on time instead of twiddling your thumbs.”
“Everything went wrong,” you sighed, at your situation, “I thought I had gotten a break for once they finally let me attend one of these and my biggest mission was you and then the car broke down in the middle of nowhere but no problem I can walk but then it started to pour and I only just missed you.”
“What does this have to do with me?” He asked, cutting off your rambling.
“I just wanted to ask for a ride,” you stated simply, “No other motives.”
He looked you over, not quite believing you, “And then what? I get ambushed into a private interview? Then I get you upset and leave you somewhere and the headlines read ‘Niki leaves girl stranded’.”
“You have my word, Mr. Lauda, I just want to get back to the motel and accept that I absolutely wrecked the biggest chance I’ve been handed. I’ll stay quiet the entire time if that’s what you’d prefer.”
“No other motives?”
“I rather not have to walk through all that mud again, but after that absolutely none.”
Niki thought it over in his head. After a moment he seemed to believe you. Gesturing for you to follow him, he leading you to the garage. “I’ve got a couple of things I need to get done, if you don’t mind waiting. If you do, there's always the walk waiting.”
You couldn’t help rolling your eyes at the back of the man’s head. “I don’t mind, Mr. Lauda.”
He sighed, looking at you annoyed, “And if we’re going to be in each other’s company for much longer, you should start calling me Niki. I hate when you all call me Mr. Lauda.”
“Any particular reason?”
“You all shout it so much,” he shrugged off his blazer and took off his white button down.
A small smirk wormed its way out of you, “A man that doesn’t like getting his name shouted, a rare occurrence for such a public figure.”
“Well, when it’s for my pleasure…”
He allowed you to fill in the blanks as he toyed with a part. You watched for a moment before you wandered around the garage, looking for anything at all to keep you occupied.
“Will you sit? You’re making it difficult to focus.”
Sighing, you walked to the only other seat in the room, next to him. So you watched as he tinkered with the object. It wasn’t long before your exhaustion from the day weighed on you and your eyes shut for a moment too long. Niki grumbled to himself in disbelief but didn’t push you away when your head rested against his shoulder. A sleeping journalist was leagues better than one that shoved a recorder in his face any day.
Niki shook you awake. The clock on the wall read 6:49 and a look out the window said the rain still had yet to let up. Much to your surprise, the man had thrown his coat over your shoulders while you slept. The lingering scent could have almost been comforting if he wasn’t a stranger.
“You look a lot dirtier than earlier,” you yawned, rubbing the sleep from your eyes.
“Well,” he shrugged, wiping the sweat off his brow, “Seeing how you fell asleep, I figured you weren’t in a rush to do anything else. So I got more things done.” His hand went to feel your shirt and he shook his head at the audacity of the fabric. How could it still be so damp? Walking over to a small locker he threw a white undershirt at you before claiming one for himself.
You watched as he changed, taking in the expanse that was slowly revealed. The freckled skin would beg to see the sun if it could. Biting your lip to keep from laughing, you put his coat on the table, and changed out of your own shirt. When your head popped out of fabric, Niki’s head quickly swiveled away from your direction, a light blush on his cheeks. It would have been hypocritical to comment on his staring instead you offered an amused huff.
“Yes, just give me a moment.” He put all his tools back in their proper place, wiping some of them down with a rag every so often.
“You’re very… meticulous aren’t you?”
“Saves the pain of not being able to find things later. Why struggle later when I can ensure everything is as it should be now? Such simple things allow me to be on time.”
“Ouch, low blow Lauda.” Grabbing the coat, you stood and placed it in his locker.
“Now you’re learning little maus.”
He shrugged, sparing a glance your way as he shut everything, “It was amusing watching you scurry to your seat. Then again I had nothing more to keep me entertained. Your lot are annoying little pests.”
“Ah, well, I’m not a big fan of them either. They’ll all stab you in the back for a semi decent story. Then there’s all the horrible stories they’d publish for a little bit of money. That’s why I was so excited to come interview you, it wouldn’t be anything that could ruin a person.”
“If you detest it so, why become one?”
“We all need something to keep the lights on, Niki. This just ended up being mine.”
“Come along, maus.”
Grabbing an umbrella, he led you to his car, helping you in before getting around to his side. He drove slower than you had expected him to, but you were more than grateful. The rain made it difficult to see much, let alone anyone else on the road. Though you did point out your poor abandoned car left on the side of the road, commenting about how much it would cost to repair the old thing. You gave him directions and he parked in front of your motel before long.
“Little maus, this is your stop.”
You looked out, the rain had gotten worse. “Stay, for a while.”
Niki looked out the window, “It’s not that bad.”
“For my peace of mind,” you clarified, “It’s horrible out here and I know this place is probably far from wherever you’re staying.”
He turned off the car. “For your peace then.” Grabbing his umbrella, he instructed you to stay put as he got out, and quickly went to your side again, helping you balance when your heel got caught in a hole in the cement. “Which way?” He yelled over a crash of thunder.
Grabbing his hand, you ran in the direction of your room. Over the rain you heard him mutter something about his soaked through shoes but you couldn’t help laughing at his expense. The outfits were equally ruined but there wasn’t any use in crying over a little rain. You put the key in the door and opened it, pulling him in behind you.
He stood at the door as he watched you shuffle through clothes, catching a pair of sweatpants you threw his way. “You have company?” Niki asked, checking out the pants.
“Nope,” you grabbed your own clothes, “I have a habit of picking up my friend’s clothes. They’re comfier.”
“And you can’t buy some of your own?”
“Not the same, Niki. Once they’re mine the comfort isn’t there anymore.” You shrugged your shoulders. “Go take a shower. I don’t need to mess up my job and get you sick on the same day.”
Niki, surprisingly, did as you said without a word of argument. Then again getting sick this late in the game wouldn’t do him any favors if he had any hopes of winning. Remembering the small restaurant across the street, you got his umbrella and braved the rain for another round. Buying him some food would only be fair considering he had agreed to bring you back even if he did need a fair amount of time before finally letting it happen. Figuring the man must be picky, breakfast options would probably be the safest bet.
When you returned to the room, Niki was sitting on the bed, turning his head, he raised a brow at you.
“I can leave if you’re not comfortable,” he spoke, having assumed the worst in your absence.
You waved him off, setting the bag of food and drink holder on the table. “Why wouldn’t I be comfortable around you? A little rough around the edges but you seem to be kind enough. Come here.”
Niki went to your side, grabbing the coffee you held out to him. He let out a quiet groan when he tasted it. “This is perfect, maus.”
You smiled at him, “I’d love to take the credit but I asked her to prepare it as she would for her grumpiest old man regular.”
For the first time he smiled in amusement, at least the first one that you had ever gotten to see. Niki’s pictures were smiles that were forced quick ones with fans, a smirk at his competitors' failures, or him being high on a victory. He seemed all the more handsome now with that kind of smile and his curls being weighed down from his shower.
“I’m going to freshen up, but help yourself to anything you’d like, Niki.”
“Oh,” you blushed, “YN.”
He nodded before sending a wink your, “I think I prefer, Maus.”
“Go eat your cheese, Rat King.” You laughed as he flipped you off before looking through the bag for something to eat.
Later that night the rain had yet to clear up. But the two of you had started to get friendlier. Speaking of the past and finding out some of the things you shared interest in. A loud crack of thunder sounded right before the power went off. Niki laughed at the quiet yelp you let out at the sudden noise.
“You’re alright, mäuschen, the thunder can’t hurt you.” His tone was teasing but you still found some comfort in his words. “It’s late, maybe you should sleep. It'll be better in the morning. There isn’t much more to do either way.”
“What will you do?” You asked, as you went to lay down.
“I’ll take a page out of your book and sleep at the table. It's fine.”
You scoffed at the thought, “Come to bed, Niki. There’s more than enough space.” Sensing his hesitation, you sighed. “Don’t make me get up and drag you to bed, Lauda.”
The bed dipped as he relented and laid down. His freezing arm grazed against yours, you had to take the extra step to throw the cover over him realizing he wouldn’t do it himself. It wasn’t long before you had fallen asleep, the man next to you still stiff as a board beside you. Niki didn’t push you away when you laid your head against his chest. Your arm rested across his stomach. Moments later he finally relaxed, allowing sleep to take him.
At six he had woken up, the rain had finally seemed to stop. Carefully he untangled himself from you. He couldn’t help a quiet laugh when you grumbled sleepily and made yourself comfortable. Again he pulled away, this time he made a successful escape. After a quick phone call and scribbling a goodbye note to you he got dressed and left.
You were woken up by a loud knocking on the door. “Coming! Coming!”
Niki seemed to be gone, at least his clothes were and the sweatpants you lent him were folded on a chair.
Opening the door, you were greeted by a tall man. “Are you, YN?”
“Yes, sir, how can I help you?”
He held out keys to you, your keys you realized, “Nothing, miss. Niki covered all the cost. He had me repair the issues and replace the little things that needed replacing. Now, I must go and fix the actual cars I’m hired to do.”
“Oh, um, thank you so much sir. I really appreciate you. Tell Niki thank you too.” You grabbed the keys from him.
The man turned heel and walked to a car that had been waiting for him. You went over to inspect your car. He had gotten it freshly washed and vacuumed too. Nothing spared to make it good as new. Your wallet would have cried it’s praise if it could.
All that was left was to head back home and, inevitably, get yelled at for dropping the ball with Niki the following day. You went to gather all your clothes. A note on the nightstand caught your attention.
Until next time, Maus. -Niki
Capital M. You laughed at that. Apparently this was a nickname you wouldn’t shake. Pocketing the note you got back to work putting all your things in your night bag.
It had been two months since that day. Niki was high off the win, but upon seeing your company’s logo, he couldn’t shake you from his thoughts. All the questions and shouts of his name were handled on an autopilot. That is until the journalist that worked with you caught his attention.
“Niki, do you think you have what it takes to actually win this season?”
“What I think is… I won’t answer any questions for your company unless they’re from YN,” he answered impulsively, “She has a personal touch.”
That seemed to be a mistake. Now all the questions became about the mystery girl that had seemed to peak Niki’s interest enough to ask for him personally. He gave the sharks a couple more minutes before walking away from them. A few stragglers trailed after him wanting to know more about the personal life he kept so close to his chest.
The next race came and there still didn’t seem to be any sign of you. Niki had come in second so he didn’t hold any of their attention. Sparing one last glance to the crowd in hopes of finding you, he gave up and walked to his locker room.
“A personal touch?” You asked when you saw him in the hall.
“It was a poor choice of words,” he said, his cheeks reddening.
“People at the office are saying I fucked my way to special treatment, Niki. Very poor choice of words.”
“We know the truth.” He shrugged, opening the door. “You’ve just made it more suspicious meeting with me here. In private.”
You followed him into the room. “And deal with everyone prying about my relationship with you? No thanks. What can I offer besides we slept in bed and the next morning he had my car fixed?”
“Well, if we had fucked I would have actually bought you a car. So that’s that. Who cares what anyone else thinks? You don’t even like the job.”
“You wouldn’t have bought me a car, that’s more of a Hunt move.”
“A nicer note then.”
“Debatable. You don’t strike me as the sweet nothings type.”
“Ask your questions, Maus.”
You set up a tape recorder and brought out a journal to write down some extra notes. The two of you trailed through the basic questions that they had made you ask, boring as they were. Then you asked him about his personal life and childhood memories. These ones the two of you found more entertainment in. You had forgotten to write down notes as he caught you in a mischievous story from his teenage years. Sharing laughs when he got fully into the story.
He smiled brightly, “Those years were much easier. How much more do we have?”
You shut off the recorder. “We’re done.”
“In that case, I could ask you some questions.”
“It’s only fair,” you allowed, “What would you like to know?”
“I can make time.”
That’s how things progressed. You’d get your private interviews, then he’d shower and take you to dinner. Of course, the dating rumors were quick to start. The true gossip rags paid for pictures of the two of you leaving his private rooms together or laughing over drinks, all good moments between friends.
Until they weren’t.
You were captured in the bubble that often formed between you and Niki. One thing after another and the distance was closed. Niki’s lips were hesitant but sure against yours. The drink in your systems making it easier to be bolder. You left a kiss to the corner of his mouth before you parted from him completely.
Niki groaned in annoyance when he caught the flash of a camera going off. “Let’s find somewhere private, Maus.”
Being with Niki was different from your past exploits. He wasn't a big fan of affectionate moments in public. Often he forgot those special days that others had made sure to celebrate with you. But somehow, despite those things you knew he cared for you the deepest out of all of them. He didn’t need all the frilled words for you to understand how he felt.
“Maus, we need to have a serious discussion,” Niki stated, pulling you from the article you were forcing yourself to write.
You groaned, but looked at him, “Love, if you’re upset with me can we save this for later. Writing this is bad enough as it is.”
“That’s precisely what I want to talk about,” he said, taking a seat across from you, “So many times I have to watch you pour all your energy into things you hate. Why?”
“I need a job. I don’t want to just be Niki Lauda’s wife.”
“You don’t need a job,” he sighed, “We’ve discussed this already. I’m your husband and I’m taking care of everything.”
“Where is this going, Niki?”
“I want you to quit.”
“No!” You looked at him angrily. “You already know how I feel about this.”
“Listen to me, YN.”
The use of your name tapering down the anger you had felt, realizing you were misunderstanding him.
“You’ll continue being my little reporter wife if you stay there. I’ve read the things you do want to write about and the passion leaks from every word. These?” He gestures to the current article, looking almost disgusted, “They’re all so dead. Well written, yes, but there’s none of my wife’s passion. I want you to quit so you can focus on the things you truly want to create.”
“I can do both,” you insisted.
“YN, it’s been months since you’ve ran to me with one of your journals, watching me read your newest story with the excitement practically radiating from you. Those moments are some of my favorites we’ve had and they haven’t happened because you’re wasting time on these shits. I want you to write your book so others can really see the talent you have.”
You nodded realizing Niki was right. “So what you’re saying is, you want to be known as YN Lauda’s husband?”
“Only in some circles, Maus,” he joked, “but I’m sure you can arrange it in a year or two when you’re a published author.”
Baron Helmut Zemo 3411
“Really! I can go with you?”
“Yes, but you’ve got to be on your best behavior and stay close to your father and I.”
“I promise!” You smiled brightly at your mother, hugging her legs as tightly as you could. “I’m gonna wear my pretty dress!”
For as long as you could remember you begged your parents to take you to castle Zemo. Driven by the bedtime stories your babysitter had told you while your parents were working in the castle. The magnificent sculptures and paintings. The gardens that looked like they went on forever. Handsome princes and princesses that looked more beautiful than anyone could dream of being. Your parents continuously denying your access to it made the castle all the more tempting.
Your sitter’s sudden sickness and no one being available to take care of you seemed to give you your golden ticket. Finally you’d get to see everything you had been missing out on.
Your mother helped you into the dress you picked and braided a beautiful purple ribbon into your hair. Your father had already left to make breakfast for the Baron and his family. A few hours later, your mother and you made your way to the castle. Along the way she continued to fret. Giving you rules and making sure to drill into your head that you were to stay close.
You stared at the gigantic castle, wide eyed, as it came into view. It really was beautiful. Princes, princesses, and extravagant balls filled your mind. How you wished to experience that life.
In the beginning you attempted to be a good daughter. Ghosting your mother through the rooms and helping her make the bed. None of this was the exciting part though. Quickly, your patience started to run. Boredom getting the better of you, you started to devise a plan. What was the worst that could happen when they caught on? You already got to see the castle with your own eyes.
“Mommy, can I go with daddy to get a snack? I’m hungry.” You patted your stomach, “It’s grring a lot!”
She looked between you and the room she had started cleaning. “Go straight to your father. Don’t look through any of the rooms.”
“Yes, ma’am. I’ll be the bestest!”
Dutifully you walked to the kitchen, where your father was preparing dinner for a meeting of some sort with fancy musicians playing as everyone ate. You wondered what it was like to be allowed to attend those kind of things. Would it be fun or would you find it boring if you were allowed to go all the time?
“Papa, can I have an apple? Mama said I can have a snack while she cleans the rooms.”
“Give me a moment, srećo,” he washed his hands quickly before slicing up two apples and grabbing a small bowl to toss them in. “Remember to bring that back when you’re finished, okay?”
You thanked him with a kiss on the cheek before grabbing your bowl of apples. Simple as that you were freed. At least until they figured out the stunt you pulled. Munching on the apples, you walked down random corridors. Taking in all the fancy things you couldn’t find at home. Though without your babysitter’s funny words, it felt stuffy like a museum. The halls all seemed too big and the paths empty though there would be something that peaked your attention.
There was some music playing and you followed after it, occasionally hearing the keys being pressed all at once. Finding the door, you pressed your ear up to it, listening to the soft music and hearing someone sing about how bored they were and how much they hated the piano, but loved the claps he’d receive after he played for a crowd. Opening the door, you stepped into the room, walking until you were close to the boy sitting at the piano.
“What are you playing?” You asked, making him jump in his seat.
The boy immediately stopped playing the piano, tilting his head in confusion when he noticed you. “A song.”
“It sounded pretty.”
“It’s boring and not fun.” The boy looked like he remembered something. Holding out his hand and said. “Hello, I’m Helmut Zemo. Who are you?”
“YN,” you held out the bowl of apples, “Want some?”
He stood and grabbed a slice for himself. “There’s never other kids here. Not unless there’s a party. Even then sometimes I’m the only one,” he spoke around a bite, looking at you up and down, “You’re so teeny tiny, you know. It’s cute.”
“I’m not!” You stood on your tippy toes, “You’re only a little bit bigger.”
“But I’m still bigger than you,” he said proudly as he stuck his tongue out at you. “Do you want to play? My mother is making me practice piano all day because people are coming but I’m tired of it.”
“We can play!” You agreed happily.
He touched your arm, before running away quickly yelling, “You’re it,” over his shoulder.
You laughed loudly, dropping your apples and chasing after him. The two of you dashed through the halls. When you pushed him into a column, the vase on it toppled down. Staring at the broken pieces and then at each other and back down.
“My great great great grandfather had that made for my great great great grandmother. It was an anniversary gift.”
“That’s a lot of greats.” You toed at a broken piece of the vase.
“It is, isn’t it?” He started to pick the broken pieces, “I don’t think gluing them together will help this… My parents will be very angry. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure you don’t get in trouble. I’m supposed to do that. Make sure the Sokovian people lead trouble-free lives and I’m responsible for them all that’s what my father says.”
“Let’s bury it in the garden! No one will know. It’ll be our secret!”
“They’ll know, but it sounds fun!”
The two of you gathered the pieces and you followed him to the garden. He dropped his pieces on the ground and ran to grab trowels to use.
“Oh! You can’t get your dress dirty! I need to take off my jacket and be gentlemanly!” He shrugged off his coat and set it on the ground. “You can sit there.”
That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. With the future baron begging his parents for you to visit, your parent’s hands were tied when it came to you accompanying them. As long as no more family heirlooms we’re broken and buried in the garden you were more than welcome over. You didn’t mind. Helmut and you found other ways to have fun. Those baby bedtime stories weren’t necessary for you to find something worthwhile in the castle anymore. Helmut was there.
Helmut would give you the tightest hugs every time he had to leave for his boarding school and even tighter ones when he came back for the holidays or summer. You were thick as thieves when he was around, hardly spending time apart when you had any say in the matter.
The older you got the higher the crimes. Sneaking him out of events, him breaking you out of school midday, partying in places you were much too young for but no one would ever stop him from doing what he’d like, and sharing kisses you had promised your parents you wouldn’t. He was simply irresistible. Many firsts were shared under the star-filled sky of Sokovia.
You were tucked into the crook of his arm, watching the stars with him. The soft fabric of his coat kept you safe from the dewy grass.
“I adore you,” he kissed you lazily, “With everything I have.”
“I swear it. Would you like to know something? It's a small secret I’ve held.”
You looked at him, curiously, “What is it?”
“It’s stupid,” he chuckled, “I think having a favorite color is idiotic. What’s the point? A color is just that, a color, but everytime, I’m drawn to purple. It always pulls my attention and I choose it over any other.”
“Why is that?”
“Because, when we met, you had a lovely ribbon in your hair. Everytime I see purple, I can’t help but think about how lucky I was that day. Naturally, I gravitate to it, because of you.”
You laughed, “Must have been very desperate for a game of tag then. I’m sorry to say fustrated piano isn’t my favorite music.”
He tugged on your hair, “I’ve improved.”
“Colors and music aside. You are my favorite person.”
“And what an honor that is, ljubavi.”
You leaned up to kiss him. “I’d choose you a million times.”
Then you got even older. The both of you settled down from your rebellious ways. You focused on your studying. Zemo started really learning what he needed for his baron hood and joined the military. He was a natural born leader, but of course he was born to lead. Life kept the both of you busy, but you still made the time.
You heard a knock on your door, knowing exactly who to expect. He had come back on a small vacation last week, first he spent time with his parents then he’d come over and spent his second week with you. Opening the door your smile faded as you took in his appearance, he looked utterly destroyed. “Helm…” you caressed his cheek, prompting him to look up at you, “What’s wrong?”
“They married me off, YN.” His eyes were rimmed red. That was a rare sight. “In four months… I’m going to be married.”
“No,” you shook your head, “You’re not. Stop lying.”
“Sokovia is failing… They said the marriage would combine their land with ours… give our people more resources. It’s what’s necessary for the people. I was born to do what was right for them. There isn’t a choice in the matter?”
“But what about us?” You took a seat, trying to process everything, “We’ve made plans. For fuck’s sake! You’re already engaged, Helmut. That was your chance to tell them. For us to really be together for once.” You fidgeted with the ring, the purple stone shining brightly. Taking off the ring you threw it at him, “Since mother and father found someone for their perfect son and he’s refusing to do anything about it.”
“You think this is the life I pictured for us? I didn’t want this!”
“You agreed to it!”
The tension hung in the air for a moment.
Helmut bent down and picked up the ring. He walked over and crouched in front of you. “I need you to keep this. This ring was given out of love and respect, never necessity. …that isn’t exactly right is it? What I needed more than anything to know that you wanted just as much as I did to go through this long life side by side. When I asked you I meant it with my being that I wanted to be with you.” Taking the ring, he slid it back on your finger. Leaving a kiss on your hand he looked at you sincerely. “I knew I wanted to marry you since I was nine and you were eight. It was the only thing I ever dreamed of.”
The tears fell from your eyes and he wiped them away for you. “Then, let’s go. We could be together how we want if we just left. Please.”
“YN, you know I can’t avoid this.”
“You could that’s thing! Other barons have left before. Come away with me, we would make each other happy. Let me make you happy.”
“The others had brothers to hand Sokovia to, I’m the only one. The only one left to try to secure a good and decent life for my people. It’s on me to do what is needed. What’s right.”
“So what’s right for us doesn't matter? Am I to be your dutiful would be wife? Watch from the side lines as you marry this woman that means little to nothing to you? Then in return get treated as if I mean nothing.”
“No,” he shook his head, kissing your hand, “You mean the world to me. I’m nothing without you. Just give me the time I need. This is just a bump, we can make it past this. I’ll figure this out for us. That’s what I want. Us.”
So you allowed him time. Watching as he played the role of baron and husband during the day and returned to you when everyone else was asleep. You made due with the fact that that was just how things were for the time being. You had his heart and that was going to have to be enough. Even if it started to chip away at your own.
“Really?” He said in surprise, making you look up from his chest, “When did you find out? …No. I’m not upset. I swear, draga. I’m glad, I wish you hadn’t kept the excitement to yourself! I’ll be back soon.” When the conversation ended Helmut threw the phone to the wall. “She’s pregnant.”
“Oh…” you sat up, he stopped you from moving away too far, “Congratulations… I’m happy for you, Helmut.”
“She was feeling unloved... I know I can’t expect you to understand, but she’s my wife,” he attempted to explain.
“I- I can’t do this anymore…”
“Yes, you can.”
“No,” you shook your head, pulling away from his grasp, “I don’t want it.”
“We can figure things out, YN. We will.”
You stood, grabbing by his blue robe to cover yourself. “What to be forced to live a life as your mistress longer? Another five years? Forever? Helmut, I’m tired of not getting to hold you when I wish. I’m tired of quick nights and too short vacations where we try to prove our love with our bodies because there’s never time to love each other the proper way at home.”
“It hasn’t been that bad,” the sound of a lighter filled the air as he grabbed a cigarette, “We have to make due with what we have.”
“It’s not enough!” The tears threatened to fall and you turned to look out the window. “It’s not! You’re married to her. She’s pregnant with your child. It’s been years now! I can’t keep watching as she gets to live the life I long for. What happens if I ever…? Would you even allow me to keep that?”
“If that’s what you wanted. I could be the godfather in public… we’ll find a way. We could raise the children together stressing how they’re similar to siblings. They’d love each other as such.”
You scoffed, “Godfather, as if they’re siblings, you’re full of answers aren’t you? And when they’re older and start to grow into your looks? When people talk, what will you do then? Can’t you hear them now? ‘Isn’t that the girl he used to fuck in club alleys? Well old habits die hard.’ So what’s the answer then? Push us under the carpet? Send us away? Perhaps? Because when it comes to me or this damned role you were born into I’ll never win out.”
“Don’t speak like that. I’d never do that to you.” Helmut walked behind you and pressed kisses to your shoulders. “You know I live for you. Breathe for you. You’re the great love of my life. These are just obstacles to overcome. We will, I promise that. One day things will be as they should be.”
“Stop lying to me and feeding me sugar coated words.”
“Helm, I don’t want this anymore,” you choked, “I love you. But this isn’t what I want.”
He kissed along your neck, “You don’t really mean that, draga.”
You pushed him away, “This isn’t something you can smooth out with a few kisses. Helmut, it’s a child.”
“I know what it is, I made it.” He left your side to get himself a drink. “My child, who would have thought we’d get such magnificent news on this vacation! What a fucking delight isn’t it?”
“Don’t be angry about the child. Everything that happened here is your fault.”
“I’m not. Despite things I’m excited to meet him. I’m upset at the way things worked out. Everything I had hoped for since I was young will never come true.”
“Well, that’s no fault of my own.. I’m not going to beg for you anymore.”
“Poor innocent bird,” he made a sympathetic face, “Did I clip your wings? Little bird, tell me, have I ever forced you into a cage? This entire time you were free to do as you pleased. You seemed to enjoy begging for your Baron just moments ago.”
“Because of your failed promises, I stayed.”
“But have I ever asked you to stay? You’re a grown woman, you can make decisions of your own. My choices aren’t the only ones that led us here.”
You took a deep breath. “Then for once I’ll make a good decision for us… Goodbye, Helmut. I hope you have a wonderful life.”
Helmut replayed that moment over and over in his head. Watching you pack your things. Holding his tongue that wanted to plead for you to stay more than anything. His heart breaking fully when you didn’t spare him one last glance and left through the door. But he knew. He knew this was for the best for you. Without cruel words and pretending he didn’t feel for you as deeply as he did, you’d stay. Your love made you loyal as could be and he couldn’t stand to hurt you as he had. And with his child on the way, he couldn’t choose you until they reached adulthood.
“Helmut? You’re home?” His wife had asked from behind him.
He took a quick drink, relishing in the burning sensation before turning in his chair to face her. “After such good news how could I stay put? It was so late, I didn’t want to interrupt your sleep. You must be so tired these days.”
She walked to his side, perching on his desk, “I always have time for you.”
“That’s such a comforting thought, draga.”
Her hand came to his cheek making him look her in the eye, “What’s wrong?”
“Fatherhood. It’s a terrifying thought. All the things that I could do wrong. Failures. I wonder if I’m capable of making the sacrifices necessary for our child to live a good and happy life.”
“The fact that you worry so much is proof that you’d try your best. I have faith in you, Helmut, you put all you have into the things you do. You’ll be a perfect father.”
“I’ll do everything I need to be a good father for him,” he promised.
She smiled at him, “Him?”
He chuckled, putting a hand on her stomach, she wasn’t close to showing but it comforted him to feel somewhat closer to his child. “I got a feeling it’s a him.”
“He needs god parents. I was thinking about asking Josif to be his godfather. You should ask YN, I know you’re close to her.”
But would she ever know how close? “No. I’m afraid I angered her too much. I judged too harshly the man she claims to love and I don’t think we’ll talk again soon.”
She shook her head, “You’re too rough sometimes, apologize to her. You’ve been friends since you were children. Most of your cherished memories involve her somehow. How horrible would it be to lose her now?”
Helmut could feel his resolve start to crumble. An expert he was at hiding his emotions and thinking quickly, but he wasn’t made of stone. Especially when he considered you one his biggest weakness. “You should sleep now. You need all the rest you can get these days.”
Sighing, she nodded, “Don’t be in your office too long. The bed gets too cold without you.”
“I need to think for a moment. I won’t be long.”
Years later, you stood in front of your television, watching Sokovia thrusted up to the sky. Then it all came crashing down. The end of a long legacy. The end of all those memories that hurt so bad. The end of everything Helmut had ever attempted to do right for the small country. You wondered if he was still alive and if he was, what was in store for him next.
Ernst Schmidt 3815
Twin screams pulled everyone from the work they had been doing. Slowly the team met at the source. Arguing always arguing now. What to do, how to do it. When the wall panel was removed it revealed two people tangled into the electrical wires. They continued to scream in agony. As they argued about what to do with the people in the walls, one struggled speaking.
You coughed up blood. Only managing the last syllable before, choking again. Seeming to muster up all your strength you screamed, “Ernst, help me!”
Their heads all snapped to you. Then everything happened. It was a blur of bodies as they struggled to get you and Jensen calm enough to look over. Finally it was decided to sedate you as they worked. First Jensen and then you. Some couldn’t help but gag at the wires running through your limbs.
“How do they know your names?” Someone shouted at the two that seemed to catch the injured one’s attention.
“I’ve never seen her in my life,” Schmidt said, looking over your sleeping figure. “I- I don’t know.”
When everyone filed out, Schmidt lingered. Mostly he wondered why you called on him out of everyone, but he supposed, he wouldn’t have any answers until you woke up. Noticing the bloodied rings you wore around your neck, he took it off of you. Running them through water until it ran clear and drying them on a towel.
“In a moment,” he called out, readjusting the jewelry on to you.
He knew himself. So he didn’t understand the extra care he was taking of you. After all he was one of the first to voice that the wall shouldn’t be opened and that you should be left there. You were unknown. Dangerous. Yet he couldn’t find it in himself to treat you as such.
When you awoke, you sat up, your hand immediately coming up to hold the rings on your neck letting out a sigh of relief when they were still there. Jensen was still asleep. Given the fact that they had patched you up instead of letting you bleed out you had to believe they wouldn’t hurt her if you wandered. Needing time to clear out what had happened, who you had seen. You didn’t know what to do, but you avoided the crew mates as you made your way through the corridors.
Ernst was here, but he couldn’t be. Could he? It had to be a delusion brought up by the pain. A cruel torture your brain decided to put you through during a life threatening event. What better time to add him in when there was a crowd and confusion.
You punched in the code for your room. Needing time to think and knowing you wouldn’t get that from the people suddenly on board. Or were you on board their ship? Nothing made sense.
Heading straight for the screen you looked through your files.
We are sorry to inform you…
He wasn’t here. There wasn’t any possible way for him to be. Angrily you blinked away the tears. You knew that. It couldn’t be helped, but hope was such a difficult thing to shake. All that was left were memories now. Sighing you tapped the video files.
The video started and you got to see him. Groggy and just a bit grumpy that you had woken him up.
“You’re been sleeping the entire night,” you complained from behind the camera. It shook as you made yourself comfortable on his lap.
At the bottom of the screen, you watched as his hands stroked up and down your thighs. “I was working all last night.”
You laughed, “Yes, great excuse. Not like I was right there by your side.”
“Then that means you should be here with me,” he pulled you down until you were tucked into the crook of his arm, he pressed a kiss to your cheek, “There you go, liebling, isn’t that much better?”
“Much,” you sighed, content.
He took the camera from you angling so that both of you were in the shot. “Why are we filming today?”
“Found it when I was putting up a box of your things. Then I saw all the tapes, dvds, and usbs and figured why shouldn’t I continue filming The Great and Epic Life of Ernst Schmidt.”
“Hmm, do you think the ending would be any good?”
“With me at your side? Baby, we’re getting an Oscar.”
You couldn’t help the laugh that bubbled up when you heard his through the speakers.
“What are you doing here?” An all too familiar voice asked.
“I’m sorry. This was- Is- fuck I don’t even know anymore…” you attempted an apology, quickly pausing the video and wiping at the tears that had fallen, “How are you here?”
“I could ask you the same thing.”
Watching him, you read his body language. He was pulling the face he did when he couldn’t find the answer he needed quickly enough.
“You don’t know me,” you concluded, a sadness in your voice that he didn’t have a taste for, “It’s strange. For days I had begged whatever was out there to bring you back, let me have a couple more moments. Then it does and you don’t even know me.”
“How do I know that you’re even telling the truth?” He asked helplessly. A part of him wanted to believe you, but so much was happening. How could he know?
“Well for one. This ring would fit you perfectly Cinderella.” You gave him a tight lipped smile as you pulled the sadness in, “Then there’s all these. We were very active in the filming business.”
It was easy catching the glint in his eye when he thought of something to say but thought better of it.
You sent him a wink his way, “Only if you were particularly good that day, my love.”
He looked at his feet, “I’m sorry, but I’m not…”
“I know, it was just a slip. …I’ve grown accustomed to living with the ghost of you.”
Ernst stepped closer to you, looking at the screen curiously. That version of himself looked at you with so much love. Remembering the rings he had cleaned, he supposed you had to mean the world to him. “What happened?”
“Are you sure you’d want to know? It’s not you but I can’t imagine knowing how any you died is anything sunny.”
“I can handle it.”
“What do you want to know?”
“Well in the beginning, we met when we came to the program. We weren’t the best of friends. God we practically hated each other. Things got heated once during an argument, one thing led to another… and well you know how those things go,” you smiled at memories of things he’d never know fully, “Then we started fucking the stress away. Eventually that seemed to become more to you and I was reluctant,” he furrowed his eyebrows at you, “I was just afraid you- he- was confusing sex with love. Then he flirted with some girl in front of me and I could not stand the idea. The smirk he had when I pulled him into that supply closet... ‘I knew you’d see things my way, mein schatz.’”
He laughed at the tease of his voice and couldn’t help a smile at the victory that version would have felt as you staked your claim on him. “What else was there?”
“Mundane things. Some arguments. Even in love things aren’t perfect. We broke up once because we were both putting work before each other. I’m not sure it really counted because even then we didn’t look for anyone else and came back to each other at the dead of night. It went on like that for a while until we decided we could make it work for real. We had already proven ourselves more than necessary but over achievers we are. Got married, I wasn’t in a rush but he said something along the lines of ‘I can’t stand the idea of passing by you like we’re strangers ever again’ and that’s all the convincing it took. Fast forward a couple of years and there came our little boy.”
“What?” He didn’t even think he wanted to be a father. Let alone think of it. Much like your version he was entirely devoted to his work. Never thinking further ahead to solving the energy crisis.
“You don’t…” You stopped yourself short, “Sorry that’s stupid if there’s no me with you then there can’t be our Elias.”
“Elias…” he tested the name on his lips, it seemed perfect, “May I see him?”
Nodding, you started scrolling down. Ernst wondered what every video contained, but there wouldn’t be enough time to watch them. It seemed filming really was something the two of you had made it your mission to do. Finally, you stopped.
“Suppose you need some context. We took off the first year we had him. Our jobs, we’d miss a lot more than we’d like y’know, but as things go I got called back and they stayed in Germany. Elias is about nine months at this point.”
The video held a tired looking Ernst that had left himself go some. His beard was coming in thicker and his hair was much longer than it would usually be. A little hand tugged on the ends of it. Pulling his hair free he sat Elias on his lap looking at the camera.
“By the time you watch this, I’m going to be long dead. Your son has not let me sleep at all,” he ruffled the small baby’s little tufts of hair, “Though he seems to sleep longer on your side of the bed. I think he misses you, hase, but I can understand that. I do too. Papa isn’t as fun alone is he?” He tickled Elias’s side, making him erupt in laughter. “Though I am beginning to think going back to work was for the best. At this rate this moppelchen would gladly eat us out of house and home.” As he made his father’s point eating some snack in a bowl set in front of himself, Elias cooed, pulling up a slobber covered hand with a star shaped puff up to Ernst’s mouth. With a slight grimace Ernst opened and the infant pushed his little fingers into his father’s mouth. “Thank you, bär. Delicious as always.”
“Papa!” The baby said, before shoving another star shaped treat of his own into his mouth.
“What?” Ernst looked between the camera and the baby, a proud smile growing on his features, “Did you hear that? It isn’t the lack of sleep?”
Elias continued to mutter the simple syllables much to the elation of the Ernst on screen.
He watched as that version of himself placed kisses on his giggling baby’s cheeks saying how proud he was and bragging to you about being Elias’s first words.
“Wunderbare! Du bist Papas Junge bist du nicht!”
Schmidt watched as Ernst attempted to teach Elias mama but couldn’t help the smug grin when he’d continuously say papa. “Where’s Elias now?”
“They were lost to me the same day,” you mumbled, watching the screen intently. Your eyes seemingly going over every pixel. “He had gone to his parents for Christmas but Elias was sick and he had decided that it was best to go home. But there was a drunk driver an- an-“ You broke into a sob. “His last breaths he was begging for them to save the baby he didn’t care what happened to him just save the baby, the report said. But Elias was… then Ernst’s injuries were too much he…”
Ernst collected your shaking figure into his arms, “I know. I’m sorry. I know.”
You shut your eyes tight holding the half stranger close. It was hard going through all of this with the new Ernst, but the same comfort was there. His hand rubbed your back the same way, his cologne that had long faded from his clothes here smelled stronger than ever, and the soft kiss he pressed to your cheek though unexpected felt the same. Letting out a shaky breath, you pulled away from him, it was too much.
“Thank you, Schmidt, I needed that.”
He nodded, unsure of what else to do. “We should go back with the others.”
You followed him through the halls back to the main room. Everyone was crowded around Jensen as she showed them some files on the computer.
“He’s been serving them information and YN does everything for him, so of course, she’d do as he asks.”
You looked at Jensen confused, “What are you talking about?”
The group turned to look at you and Schmidt, looking betrayed by their crew mate.
“I found it all, Schmidts. Every piece of information you two have been feeding to your higher ups. Since the beginning. Given everything that’s been happening, warning these guys about their own Schmidt felt more than necessary.”
“What?” You looked at her in disbelief, “Who the hell would I be reporting to? I’ve been doing my job as I should and failed. Our energy experiment didn’t work, because they had the one person we didn’t.” Pushing past her you looked at the screen. Files signed with your and Ernst’s names were all sent to people who had their own agenda. “What is this?”
“Contain those two until I find some way to sort this all out,” their commander ordered.
Schmidt looked at him in anger when two men grabbed him. “I haven’t done anything!”
“Well thanks to you and her, where we’re from the world, went to shit. Your little club started the wars that tore our world apart.”
You didn’t struggle against the women that came to grab you. “Don’t believe me. That’s fine. I understand how this looks from my position. But are you really going to believe her over your own crew mate? She’s lying about a dead man.”
Jensen clicked another file. Skimming through it quickly she read about how Ernst had faked his death in order to start the project for the people that would pay him. He was sorry the baby was a necessary casualty but another could be made in the long run.
“Why are you doing this?” You looked at Jensen obviously hurt. It was funny. She puppeteered all this and you had thought the crew would be what you should have worried about.
You didn’t get a response as you and Schmidt were being dragged away. They ended up leaving the two of you in a makeshift cell.
“His memory is being ruined.” You shook your head, taking a seat on the ground. “All the good he tried to do and she’s undoing it with a bunch of fake files.”
“They’re idiots but they’ll come around. Volkov accused me of something similar earlier when he was complaining about my failures… then he died choking on worms. Add on all of this, being lost in space, people in the walls, Mandy losing an arm, no one is in their right mind at the moment.”
“Well, if it’s anything you’ve definitely got all the patience Ernst was missing. He’d be livid right now.”
“I am, but it’s wasted when the only person here knows I’m innocent.”
You watched as he paced the short hall before finally joining you on the ground.
“Tell me some more about you two. We’ve got nothing but time and I need something else to think about.”
“Well we definitely weren’t spies I can tell you that much. We worked together as partners after a while, my stuff overlapped with yours and as much as we liked space, it was faster to get home when we came up together. When we were home it was always nice, but I had to pull you from your habit of getting locked up in your office. Especially when I was pregnant. You had said you wanted them to leave you alone for as long as possible.”
“I can see why he wanted as much time with you as he could manage,” he leaned his head against the wall, eyes closed, “Hearing you talk is calming.”
“What finally pulled you out of the rut was when you felt Elias kick at your hand once,” you laughed at the memory, “The smile you had then… That little bär gave you a new life. But as you are, you just devoted yourself to new work- building his nursery. Some mornings you’d hum the bump a melody or just talk to it. ‘He’s going to recognize you instantly, hase, my bär needs to know how papa sounds.’”
Ernst couldn’t find it in himself to correct you at that moment. You sounded so happy, so fond of him.
“You were adamant about him having a telescope near his window.”
He chuckled, knowing exactly why he would want such a thing. “That’s where it all started for me! My first real memory is sneaking out of my window with it in my bag and running up the hill to get the closest look at the stars I could. Those times were much easier…”
“You loved the idea of your son following after your footsteps.”
“Well, when he took after his mama’s looks I had to nudge him a little closer to papa’s side.”
He watched as your smile faltered and he realized his wording. Caught up in the idea of the life this other self had with you.
“He said the same exact thing.”
“You miss him.”
“All the time. This is… this is so difficult with you. I try to grit my teeth just enough, I’m a stranger to you after all, but looking at you is like looking at the sun. Look for too long and it hurts.”
“I wish I knew what to say. What combination of words could help but…”
“I don’t think there’s any words for this kind of thing.”
Ernst put an arm around your shoulders. “He seemed to make you happy. You didn’t deserve any of this pain. Speaking as a person that could probably guess his thoughts best in this whole place you made him happier than anything he ever experienced.”
“It should have been me, Schmidt.”
“No,” he shook his head, “It shouldn’t have been any of you. All of you deserved as much time as you could have been given with each other. I’m not sure Tam and I will have that.”
“Tam,” you smiled, “you shouldn’t say that. You never know what could happen. I told you, Ernst and I didn’t have a picture perfect beginning. The middle though? That was amazing.”
“I’m not sure I’m right for her.”
“If you weren’t, she wouldn’t entertain you. Don’t sell yourself short Schmidt you can give someone a very happy life when you try. Ernst surprised himself a couple of times.”
The next couple of hours were a blur. A stray arm freed you and Schmidt, the arm solved the mystery of where the gyro was, then Schmidt lost Tam. That broke your heart. How helpless he looked. The horror that painted his face as he looked at Tam frozen in place. Then Mundy in an explosion and Kiel making his final stance as the commander of the ship.
Sound of a gunshot took you and Schmidt out of the tunnel vision of screens and numbers, working hard to do anything that could help.
Jensen raised the gun, aiming at Schmidt, “YN, move out of the way.”
You shook your head, stepping in front of him despite his attempts to shield you with his body. “Why are you doing this?”
“They have the resources we need. If he hadn’t been here, you’d think clearly. Three lives aren’t worth the ones we could save. They think giving us the schematics would be useful but we’d never build it in time. It’s our world or theirs.”
“Mina… it’s him.”
“Which is why I’m giving you the time to walk out. You don’t have to see him die. You can miss it again.”
The tears spilled from your eyes, but all the same you nodded. “Goodbye, Schmidt.” Looking at Mina you asked for a simple request. “He suffered a lot last time. They said he kept fighting until they told him Elias had survived… Make sure it’s quick. Please.”
She gave you a nod adjusting her aim.
“YN! You’re better than this!” He yelled in anger, “I trusted you!”
Hanging your head you walked toward Mina.
“This is for the greater good, YN. You’ll feel better about it later. It’s not like you’d get another Elias out of him, right?”
The second you passed her shoulder you turned heel and threw a cheap shot. Fair considering she had a gun. Jensen pulled the trigger quickly, a gunshot was immediately followed by Schmidt’s scream. The struggle you put up made her lose her grip on it, making it hurl to the ground. Both of you dove for it but she was just that much quicker. Aiming at you she sent two bullets your way. Both landed in your torso. Flooring you immediately.
Hamilton made it into the room. This time Schmidt took the distraction. Their struggle sent the gun clattering to the floor. You were close enough to grab it. Aiming you shot her with as much remorse as she had. Luckily it had hit her and she crumpled to the ground.
Schmidt quickly went to your side, gathering you into his arms. “Why would you do that?” He asked, the sadness seeping into his voice, “I’m not him. I’m not worth your life.”
“But you are,” you grimaced in pain, your breaths coming in shallow, “You may not be exact but there’s enough to recognize. Enough to love.”
“YN,” he choked, holding you close, “Please there’s been so much death already. Not you too.”
“I’ve begged for this, you know. The universe seems to be a fan of The Monkey’s Paw,” you laughed humorlessly, “Countless times I wished for a way to save my Ernst. Saving you is enough.”
He let out a stuttered breath, “I’m not worth this, I'm not enough. Please don’t.”
You held his face in your hand, brushing away a tear that had fallen. “You’re worth the pain in any lifetime, my love.”
Ernst watched as the light in your eyes dimmed. The weight of lives he’d never live crushing him. Moments with Tam that he had imagined once they got to Earth. All the things you had said and the short clip you had shown him running on a loop in his head. That little bär he’d never get a chance to hold in his own arms. It was his turn to live with ghosts now. Maybe, in another universe, you just had to live with stories of him too.