Author: Ersatz PM
Star cross'd dead folk? All in a night's work for Vincent and Dinah. Short and horribly, horribly sweet. Have some boundless apologies on me.Rated: Fiction K - English - Romance - Words: 2,021 - Reviews: 12 - Favs: 11 - Follows: 3 - Published: 04-07-06 - Status: Complete - id: 2880196
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Author's Note: Blame the white plot bunnies for any lapses in character/grammar/plot/readability - they made me do it. And I have no excuse for the shocking non-use of Edaniel.
Disclaimer: After reading the following, you may wonder why I was ever allowed a pen – yes, it's pretty obvious I do not own Bizenghast. It justly belongs to M. Alice LeGrow. Not that I'm jealous…:gnaws spleen:
Look for me by moonlight;
Watch for me by moonlight;
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way!
I want to be with you everywhere.
Vincent stopped. He had realised much the same about half a mile back; it was almost a relief that Dinah knew too. He couldn't hide anything from her for long. 'Maybe we should check the map.'
'Map,' said Dinah, vaguely.
'You know; Bizenghast's Homes o' the Spirits. Great discounts. Tour bus hourly.'
Dinah wandered on, neat boots barely marking the forest floor. But in that passing glance, it looked almost as though she…no, a trick of the night, that was all. Dinah never smiled.
At least not for me, he thought sourly, watching the girl fade to a mere sketch in the fog.
The only thing wearing a grin was the moon, its pale, ponderous face leering through the branches.
Vincent grimaced and shouldered himself against a tree. 'Dinah,' he called, shaking an acorn from his shoe. He noticed a hole in his sock and jammed the shoe back on as the girl detached from the gloom.
Her eyes were polite, enquiring, betraying not a jot of fear. He knew better. 'Have you seen something?'
'I think so.' It wasn't a lie…well, maybe a white one, the sort that made people feel better. 'Through that bracken, there.'
Dinah waited until he retied his laces then walked ahead, the breeze teasing the curls in her hair. She wore it mostly loose tonight. Vincent thought it particularly fine that way.
They spent some time wandering deeper into the wood, he holding back branches for her to step daintily through, freeing her hems when they snagged on a thorn, hiding his blushes at the soft rasp of her petticoats.
With Dinah in the lead, it was she who saw it first; a squat, unremarkable building, sagging under the heavy beams that marked it as an inn.
As they drew closer, Vincent canted his head to read the crooked, creaking tabard; The Traveller's Rest. Exactly what kind of rest would it offer him and Dinah? Excusing himself the pun, Vincent decided it a bad sign.
He found her gazing up at an old signpost; skewed and worm-addled, its wooden arms had warped so all four were pointed at the nearby inn.
Vincent peered down each road and saw curling fog. No matter. Their destination was perfectly clear.
He glanced at Dinah and saw her head still tilted, although she was no longer looking at the sign. Her spider-scrawl lashes rested on cheeks pale as raw silk. Vincent luxuriated in the sight even as her words stirred the hair on his neck. 'There's never a choice, is there?' Her eyes opened, wide and faraway moons. 'Not for us. Not for me.'
Skirts whispered as she left him standing at the crossroads, trying not to imagine how it would feel to trace that fringe of lashes…
not for us
whether her hair would feel cool as a midnight river…
not for me
A clatter of claws made him start. A crow was hunkered atop the sign, it beak a wicked hook.
'What's your problem?' Vincent muttered.
It fixed him with a beaded eye. Once, twice it rapped the top of the sign. With a caw that was almost a chuckle, it plunged into the dark.
'Stupid bird.' But there was something etched in the wooden post, something a person too busy gawping up at signs wouldn't notice. Vincent pressed closer, eyes narrowed.
Violets are red,
Roses are true;
Cupid's best shot,
Should give you a clue.
A mark of trust,
This labour of love;
To send us above.
Beneath, weatherworn but legible, were the initials D and V, each trapped in a crude heart.
'D and V,' he mused. 'Douglas and Vera? Derrick and Velma? Dawn and Vaughan?'
A crow cawed somewhere nearby.
'Alright, I'm going. Jeez.' Only one slight problem; he appeared to have lost Dinah.
Any trace of good humour fizzled to a leaden lump. 'Dinah?'
He cleared his throat before calling a second time, but her name still emerged in a panicked rasp.
Vincent cursed. That seemed to make the fear ebb a little, so he cursed again before striding for the inn.
At first he thought it was his heart, that rhythmic thump getting steadily louder. But no. It was a pounding of hooves. Coming closer. And closer. And fast.
In grim counterpoint, there were loud thuds from above. Vincent squinted at a harlequin pane on the inn's upper floor; a white oval flashed in the window, a white oval with huge, horrified eyes.
'Dinah,' he cried.
Her answer was no less desperate.
Dinah's scream still rattling in his ears, Vincent charged for the inn. Shouldering the door earned him a bruise. His foot fared little better.
Teeth gritted, Vincent grasped a nearby rock and crashed it down on the lock.
'Thank you shoddy Bizenghast craftsmanship,' he crowed, hurtling through the door and up the stairs.
He ran full pelt down a narrow corridor, rattling ancient paint as he jounced the walls in his haste.
'Dinah!' he pleaded, racing past door after door, each as featureless as the last.
Finally, a faint, 'In here!'
That was all it took; Vincent booted the door soundly enough to shatter its lower hinge.
He burst into a scene of Dinah wrestling a gun from a bald, hulking man. Worse still, the bald hulk was clutching a gun. Dinah's back was to him, hair flailing in her efforts to keep hold of the rifle; Vincent was dimly disappointed she had missed his rather dramatic entrance.
'Help us! He's going to kill my Damian!'
Who in Hades is Damian?
Even more pressing; who was the girl wailing in the corner?
'Damian.' The girl wrung at her red braid, eyes frantic. 'What about my Damian?'
'Dinah,' was his only answer.
Lips peeled from yellowed teeth, the Innkeep used the gun to swing Dinah hard. She crashed into the wall, his frail, precious Dinah, sending chips flying like angry wasps.
Vincent didn't see red. He saw an epiphany of blood. Screaming, he charged the Innkeep, barrelling the brute into the window to shatter its last vestiges of glass.
The gun clattered to the boards, mercifully keeping the murderous load in its belly.
Dinah wasted not a second. The Innkeep froze as she snatched the gun and levelled it at him with alarming speed. 'Violet. Run.'
Violet did not need telling twice - there was a frigid blast as the redhead swept by Vincent and out of the room.
'Violet!' howled the Innkeep, jowls quivering. 'My flower, my bloom!'
'Stop it,' Dinah snapped, circling the man to join Vincent at the window.
'Ruin her, he will!' the man ranted on. 'I'll shoot the blaggard!'
'What blaggard?' Vincent demanded.
'Oh,' moaned the Innkeep.
'Fat lot of help you are.' He turned to Dinah, but her gaze was fixed on the girl now running on the moon drenched path below – Violet's braid was a crimson streak, arms straining for the mounted figure at the crossroads.
'Damian,' whispered Dinah.
Vincent fought a jag of envy as she sighed that name. Damian's cloak was black as his heaving steed, his spurs a wicked grin. There was only one splash of colour; a single blood rose in his hand.
Vincent had read the story-books, heard the songs; he knew a highwayman when he saw one. Something was horribly familiar here…
The Highwayman slid from the horse to embrace Violet, breathless, laughing, the rose tumbling from his fingers to the stony ground below. Vincent's heart fell with that rose. He knew what he had to do.
Dinah merely stared at him as he reached for the gun, surrendered it with only the slightest of frowns. 'Vincent, what are you doing?'
That was cruel; Dinah trusted him implicitly. Dinah trusted no one else. He hated to see her hurt.
Vincent offered the gun to the Innkeep.
For a heartbeat, both the man and Dinah wore identical expressions; eyes wide, lips lax. They couldn't have looked more confused if they'd been scratching their crowns.
Then the big man grinned.
'No!' Dinah lunged for the rifle even as Vincent flung his weight against her.
They hit the planks hard enough so spin them a halo of dust.
Dinah lay still beneath him, her eyes glittering. In them he saw his own ghost; a pale eyed, pale haired betrayer.
He was afraid to hold those fragile limbs too tightly, and that was enough to let her struggle from under him.
But she had already swiped around the doorframe. Vincent cried her name again and again, chased her down the blur of the corridor, the stairs, into the startling slap of night air.
At the crossroads, the lovers were still lost in one another, lips and bodies locked.
Panting, Vincent glanced up and saw the gun muzzle pointing from the windowsill, stern as a judge's finger.
And Dinah…Dinah was directly in its path.
Vincent broke into a run, dazzled by the moonlight sparking on Dinah's hair, her petticoats, the flashing soles of her boots. With a desperate cry, he leapt and managed to hook her waist as the gun fired. He heard the bullet shriek as they fell, saw it flip a lock of Dinah's hair.
For the second time, they landed in a tangle of limbs and outrage, heads snapping up in time to see Violet jerk like some grim marionette; the bullet had torn a bloody rose in her back.
It was the worst sound he had ever heard, the one that left Dinah then; a moan of purest pain. That he should be the cause of it…
Light - dreadful, wonderful - seized Violet and, as she drifted, Vincent saw the ragged hole in Highwayman's breast; what had torn through his lover had also torn through him. Vincent could have wept with relief.
'Vincent.' The Highwayman pressed a hand to the wound and staggered closer, smile broad enough to spill blood from his lips. 'Tell her.'
Light seared midnight to noon. Dinah keep her face pressed to the ground as Violet rose higher, wings a brilliant arc. She didn't see Damian's own shining wings, or the two spiral upwards as though in some joyous dance.
Dinah was weeping. Gently, oh so gently, Vincent cradled her close. 'They're free,' he whispered. 'Both of them. Look.'
She flinched from his gaze, eyes glossed with pain. But she looked at the empty crossroads. And gasped. And wept a little more.
'The Innkeep shot the Highwayman,' he pressed, desperate to make her understand. 'Then Violet killed herself, alone. They could never have been together.' He traced the sweet swell of her cheek. 'Don't you see, Dinah? Cupid's best shot; one arrow, two hearts.'
Her eyes finally met his. 'But how did you…?'
'A little bird told me. Dinah,' he said, urgent now. Already he could feel their leave taking, the tremble before the storm. 'Do you trust me?'
He thought the light had come for them, then realised it was her smile drowning out the dark. 'Always.'
His hand trembled on her cheek; if he didn't do it now… 'I lov—'
The night surged softly back when the light had died; cold and empty, with only the hush of black wings for a lullaby.