|One for Sorrow, Two for Joy
Author: Veleda PM
A series of moments, a string of memories. Seven connected ficlets. Riff/Cain with appearances by Merry, Jezebel, and Crehador. Spoilers for up to the end of Godchild.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Drama - Riff R. & Cain H. - Words: 1,704 - Reviews: 3 - Favs: 13 - Published: 08-07-09 - Status: Complete - id: 5284826
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
i. One for Sorrow
Cain has grown used to being alone. Sometimes there are pets or toys, but they always disappear, and Cain spends more time in mourning than not. The loneliness has sunk deep into his bones, until he remembers nothing else.
Father says that Cain is alone because he's wicked. It is due to his sin that pets die and toys break. Cain accepts this because he cannot think of a better answer. It explains why the servants ignore him and why visiting relatives refuse to look at him. If he was good, they would love him.
It must be his fault.
ii. Two For Joy
Early on, it's easy to believe that Riff knows everything. He's read scores of books, can explain tricky math equations, and is always happy to answer Cain's endless questions about anatomy and chemical reactions. Cain worries that Riff will think less of him if he finds out that Cain is using his newfound knowledge to further his study of poisons, but he soon realizes that Riff already knows. It's impossible to hide anything from Riff.
Riff is far more interesting than Cain's many tutors and more patient too. Riff never yells at him or treats him like he's stupid, so Cain never feels the urge to throw books at his head or toss him out of the house. Riff is kind to Cain, so Cain tries to be kind in return. He's frustrated to discover that kindness is much more difficult to learn than geography, but for Riff's sake he doesn't give up.
Slowly, fewer and fewer tutors come to the house, and Riff spends more and more time giving Cain his lessons. Riff teaches Cain math, science, and history. But most of all, Riff is teaching Cain how to be happy, and for that Cain will love him forever.
iii. Three for a Girl
Merryweather is like a ray of sunshine breaking through the fog that permeates the Hargreaves mansion. It startles Cain and even unnerves him at first. He's not sure how to deal with the unreserved joy she takes in life. He thinks he could get used to it though.
There are other problems, not so easily solved. Cain has no idea how to care for a child, much less a little girl. He tries to remember how Suzette was when she was small, but he suspects that providing for Merry will require more than agreeing to play dolls with her. Besides, the last thing he wants is for Merry to wind up like poor Suzette.
For what seems like the first time, Riff isn't much help. As it turns out, he doesn't know anything more about raising little girls than Cain does. However, he seems confident in Cain's ability to succeed, which is more than Cain can say for himself.
Finally, Cain swallows his pride and calls Aunt Katina. He's ready to beg if he must, and that tells him all he needs to know about how much he loves Merry already.
He doesn't need to beg. Aunt Katina agrees to help with a readiness that surprises him. She's a whirlwind of activity, buying dresses, overseeing room preparations, and hiring governesses. When she prepares to leave Cain feels a stab of panic. "I can't do this", he wants to say. "What if I hurt her? What if I turn out just like him?" He swallows the words down, but maybe Aunt Katina sees them on his face. She smiles at him, the first time he can remember her smiling. "You'll be fine," she says.
When Merryweather wraps her arms around him, Cain allows himself to hope that she might be right.
iv. Four for a Boy
Cain stares at Merry's sleeping form, mesmerized by the way her body moves up and down with each breath. Each movement is a blessing, proof that he hasn't lost her.
He had been so afraid. All his previous encounters with Doctor Jezebel Disraeli had ended with the death of someone Cain was trying to protect. He thinks of Dirk and Justine, of Meridiana.
Cain looks at the bottle of laudanum in his hand. He gave Merry a dose to help her sleep after her harrowing ordeal. He considers taking some himself, but decides against it. He doesn't really want to sleep tonight. He'll only dream, dream of his father lurking in the shadows, and of the doctor, his brother, standing before a mountain of corpses which stare at him with blank, accusing eyes.
He failed again. He faced the doctor and once again was unable to kill him. He's always so weak. If Riff hadn't been there, Merry would have ended up just like Dirk, Justine, and his poor Meridiana.
He wonders what did he did to earn such hatred. What drives the doctor in his mad quest to destroy Cain? Is it really simply that Cain is his father's legitimate son? Cain chuckles darkly. He would gladly give up such a title. What has it brought him but pain? His father tortured and cursed him, his relatives despise him, and everywhere he goes, death follows. If that's what the doctor truly wants, then he's madder than Cain first thought.
In a wiser world, they would be allies, the sons against the father. But the world is insane. Cain is just another helpless inhabitant struggling to hold on to what little he has, and he won't let anyone take it away.
"Sir?" Cain looks up. "You should be in bed," Riff chides gently, no actual disapproval in his voice. Cain shakes his head. He doesn't need to explain his reasons. Riff will understand anyway. "I see." Riff's voice is soft as he settles himself besides Cain.
"He won't stop," Cain finally says.
Riff asks no foolish questions. "Neither will we. We'll win, my lord. Together."
"Do you promise?" Cain wishes he didn't sound like such a child.
It will have to be enough. Cain sits down, and Riff follows. He lays his head on Riff's shoulder and drifts off to sleep, counting on Riff to keep the demons away.
v. Five for Silver
Cain smiles as he wraps a slip of paper around small bottle. "Mercury (Quicksilver)" reads the label in Cain's neat, precise hand.
Cain takes pride in his collection, and it shows. Bottles are regularly dusted and faded labels are replaced. Mercury isn't one of his favorite poisons, but he endeavors to treat all of his children equally.
The main problem with mercury, Cain thinks, is its unreliability. A person could drink a cupful of liquid mercury and be just fine. Injections are trouble to administer, and it's difficult to prepare a lethal dose, since people have such different tolerance levels. One could get good results from heating the mercury and releasing it into the air, but that's something of a hassle. Nevertheless, mercury is a classic, and there's a sense of comfort in those. No collection could be complete without it. Cain has elemental mercury in liquid form, as well mercury chloride (also known as corrosive sublimate), which is more effective as a poison.
He's been waiting for an opportunity to use mercury, but a suitable occasion has not arisen. Thus far, the cases he's solved have required either more speed or more subtly, and Cain isn't going to poison anyone who doesn't deserve it. There is a line that separates him from what he fights against. It's a fine, faded line, but it is there, and Cain will not cross it.
"Sir?" Riff appears in the doorway. "It's time for dinner." He sees the bottle in Cain's hand. "Please wash up first."
Cain smiles. "Pretty, isn't it?"
"I'm afraid I couldn't say, sir."
Cain nods, as if Riff has agreed with him. "I think I prefer quicksilver to regular silver, don't you?"
Riff just gives him a long suffering look, and Cain laughs as he puts the bottle away.
vi. Six for Gold
Crehador's motivations are easy to understand. He wants money and he wants revenge. Cain has given him plenty of the former and will help him gain the latter. Crehador doesn't act out of loyalty or love of Cain. Cain likes it that way. Riff was loyal, Riff loved him, and now Riff is gone. Cain wants no more love.
Crehador resents Cain's orders. Crehador cannot be trusted. If Cain's father made him a better offer, he would probably switch sides. In a strange way, this makes him trustworthy. Cain can't be betrayed if he's expecting the blow. Judas was given thirty pieces of silver, but Cain pays Crehador in gold. It's simpler that way.
"I don't need it," Crehador says after Cain hands him a stack of bills.
Cain glares. "Take it," he bites out. They have a business arrangement: payment for services rendered.
Crehador shrugs and complies. "I'm not doing this for you. I'm doing it for Sheila." There's absolutely no understanding in his eyes, Cain assures himself.
If you never give anyone your heart, then no one can tear it out. Cain has learned that lesson well. It's better this way. And he's not lonely at all.
vii. Seven for a Secret Never to Be Told
The wheel is turning, the tower is crumbling, Cain is holding on to Riff likes it's the end of the world, and he has never been so happy. His father was wrong: he is not alone, and he is more loved that any person has ever been.
They will be discovered eventually, and perhaps people will wonder why a man doomed to die was smiling so blissfully. They don't need to know. Cain has always loved secrets, and his last is also his greatest.
Cain dies happy, and that's all anyone will ever know. It's all they need to know.