AN: Can it be? After all these years? Mes enfants, I bring, for your reading pleasure, a happy little piece of William-centric angst. And not even a trace of Sue-ness, I swear to God. Shouts out to Miss Ada Kensington, my comrade in arms in the fight to restore Birkin-fic goodness to
Review or die.
It was well past 3.00am, but this did not deter the figure hunched over his desk in deep concentration. His blue eyes were shot through with the raw red of caffeine induced sleeplessness, and there was the faintest trace of grime at his once white, now greying collar which indicated that showering was not a luxury he'd had recently. His boyishly handsome features paled into the realms of unnoticeable, when one was faced with the starkly strained nature of his appearance. His thin fingers shook as he wrote, his movements as erratic and jerky as his handwriting. Lank blonde hair, dirty both in colour and state, fell across his furrowed brow, as he let out a loud, almost petulant sigh and threw down his pen with a hiss of frustration.
The light from the lamp was giving him a spectacular headache, and the stale taste in his mouth made him feel queasy, but still, he could afford neither to sleep, nor to drink anything that did not contain some form of stimulant. He barely stopped writing to reach out with one hand and grab some caffeine pills, throwing them into his mouth savagely and taking a gulp of the now freezing cold, tar-like liquid which passed in the Birkin household for coffee.
He stared down at the paper, and could quite earnestly have wept. Such an emotion, a sense of overwhelming, almost oppressive frustration, was becoming quite the habitual state for Dr William Birkin. Everything was falling apart. The organisation, which had once been both mother and father to him, was now closing in about him like a net made from barbed wire. He was slowly, and gradually a little more with each day, facing the realisation that he might not be indispensable. His wholly justified arrogance in his own genius was giving way to a new type of fear.
William Birkin had always been driven by fear. It was fear of failure which spurred him on through so many sleepless nights, just like this one. But fear of failure is person, it is a fear we can set the boundaries to ourselves. At this present moment, failure was the furthest thing from Birkin's mind. His success was assured; his fear was for his life.
As paranoid as everyone thought him to be, and truly he was aware of what they thought of him, of what was going through their minds when they saw him, wild and dishevelled in the corridors and shook their heads pityingly, or laughed behind their hand. Those who could remember that far back speculated that he was going the same way as Dr Marcus. Mad. It happened to all Umbrella's protégés sooner or later.
But, much like his former mentor, William Birkin was wholly justified in his paranoia.
He had always gone through his life, with no distinction between his professional and his personal life, with the belief that the acquisition of knowledge was the most important thing in the world. He had always held true that there was no sacrifice to great to offer before the altar of his work. But then again, he had never considered the possibility that he might be in danger. He was perfectly willing to put his wife and child in peril, but was the G-virus more important than even his own life?
William had in his hands, at that very moment, two versions of the same report. One was a record of abysmal failure, of falling at the last hurdle in his research, of numerous setbacks which prevented him from obtaining any data at all. One was the truth, a catalogue of resounding successes, of his life's work and dream finally realised. One he would submit to the board of directors. One he would burn.
It was simply a question of which. If he submitted the first report, they would be more than aware that he was lying. But it might afford him some time. Perhaps he could take the virus samples and buy his way into safety with a rival company while Umbrella dallied with his ruse. After all, with him gone, they wouldn't take Annette or Sherry. Well, perhaps Sherry, but he no longer had use for her as a test subject, now that the virus was complete.
If he submitted the second report, he would have to hand over his precious G-virus to Umbrella. They would take it away from him. They were going to hand the project over to the French His project. His life's work.
It was with this surge of righteous anger that Birkin made his decision. No mother had ever been so protective of her child as he was of his creation. It went beyond rational logic, beyond any consideration for the usefulness of the virus outwith Umbrella's utilisation. It was his, and they would not have it.
They could come for him, they could take his wife and child and shoot them in front of him, and he would not care as long as he was still in possession of the one thing he had ever poured his heart and soul into. A cold and brilliant individual, who was slow to form emotional attachment, monstrously quick to anger and brutally miserly with his affections, he was admired by many, and liked by few. But he had a love, truer and purer than any fleeting romance, more obsessive than any infatuation. It fulfilled all of his emotional needs, and consumed him utterly. His G-virus.
He would not hand it over to them without a fight. He would bite at the hand which had fed him for so long. The thought of someone else, someone so wholly unworthy, pulling apart his creation, running their filthy hands over his meticulous notes, made him feel sick with anger.
His right eye twitched a little, as the fresh wave of caffeine kicked in, and he rubbed his temples, then picked up his pen with a manic, tight little smile.
No, they would not take it away from him.
It was his.
It belonged only to him.
He started to laugh to himself, a hollow and bitter sound which gradually grew louder and more hysterical, his bellows ringing throughout the house, until eventually the door to his study opened with a tired creak.
"William. For God's sake…" It was Annette. Dear Annette. Her voice was strained, a woman constantly on eggshells, permanently on the verge of tears.
"I'm going to show them. They'll ever take it away from me. No…it will be mine forever. You'll see, Annette, I'm going to show them all…" he erupted into cackling laughter once more, each bitter sound which erupted from his lips causing fresh tears to well up in the eyes of the pale, terse looking blonde woman. She could only stare down with mute sorrow at her husband's work, his latest desperate, futile ploy to stave off the wolves which bayed at their threshold.
"Yes, darling…" she began, her voice shaking, "Come to bed…it's late and everything will be so much clearer in the morning…when you've slept…" She laid a hand gently on his shoulder, and he shook it off with churlish anger.
"Leave me be, woman," he roared. "You don't understand! You never understood! This comes first, before anything else!"
"Before me?" she enquired with soft sadness. "Before Sherry?"
He looked at her with a sneer so filthy that she might have been dirt. "Of course," he snapped. "Don't burden me with your ridiculous sentimentality at a time like this. Leave me alone. Can't you see I'm busy?"
It was with a muffled sob that Annette said her "Goodnight, dear" and closed the door quietly. She sat down against the wall, crossed her arms tightly across her chest, and allowed icy tears to flow unchecked. It wasn't ridiculous sentimentality, it was her marriage. And while she had never expected wedded bliss in the typical sense, William was killing her. He was killing both of them.
Squeezing her eyes shut, she sobbed silently through gritted teeth, balling her hands into fists. All at once, she felt a gentle hand on the side of her head, stroking her hair soothingly, and she looked up with a jerk.
"William?" she blurted out, her voice ragged with hope.
"It'll be alright, mommy." And to the little girl in front of her, it really was that simple. If she could stop her mother from crying, then she'd made everything ok again.
"Sherry! What the Hell are you doing out of bed?" she snarled viciously, almost hating the child at that moment for not being what she wanted to see. "Get upstairs…now!"
As Sherry scuttled off up the stairs, now muffling her own sobs, it occurred to all three members of the household at once that this was not a happy home.
Perhaps the evening's events would have been different, had William and Annette Birkin been aware that this was the last night they would ever spend together as a family unit. That tomorrow the fuse, which had been lit so long ago, would finally run out.
Perhaps they would have played Scrabble instead, cooked a nice meal, watched a Disney film, said "I love you", and finally all snuggled up in the double bed and gone to sleep, with Sherry curled up in the middle.