Title: The Inventor's Integrity

Pairing: Violet/Olaf, I suppose.

Setting: Post-stake burning sequence from The Vile Village

Summary: AU fic. Before burning at the stake in the town of V.F.D., Klaus and Sunny choose Violet's life over their own and hand her over to Count Olaf. His ultimate goal achieved, Olaf takes her back to his home and forces her to marry him. Left to her own devices, Violet discovers unknown reserves of strength and courage that even Count Olaf did not anticipate.

Rating: PG-13, just to be on the safe side.

Warnings: Will be posted as they come.

Genre: Angst/Action/Adventure/AU

Disclaimer: The characters and places are property of Lemony Snicket. The first few sentences are taken directly from The Vile Village.

- - - - - - - - -

Dupin - who, of course, was really Count Olaf - leaned down to the children, so close that they could smell the egg salad sandwich he'd apparently eaten for lunch. "Of course," he said in a quiet voice so that only the siblings could hear him, "one Baudelaire will escape at the last minute, and live with me until the fortune is mine. The question is, which Baudelaire will that be? You still haven't let me know you're decision."

"We're not going to entertain that notion, Olaf," Violet said bitterly.

Klaus laid a hand firmly on Violet's arm. "Yes, Violet, I'm afraid we are," he said softly.

Violet's head whipped about so fast that Klaus was smacked in the face by her long hair. "What?" she gasped.

Klaus turned to look at the so-called Detective Dupin. "Take Violet," he said brokenly. "She's been the strongest during this ordeal. But you must promise to release her once you've gotten the fortune."

Olaf smiled, a horrible, false smile. "Why, of course," he said. "So glad you've finally agreed to cooperate." He turned to Violet and hissed under his breath, "Run."

"No!" Violet cried, tears starting to streak down her cheeks.

"Violet," Klaus said forcefully, "Run!"

She stared between Klaus and Sunny fearfully, coming to the slow realization that she would never see them again. Klaus had a frightening desperation in his eyes; Sunny looked tired and blank. She looked at her big sister and motioned with one tiny hand. "Wun," she said despondently, which here means something to the effect of, "Please go, Violet… it's our only chance."

Violet shuddered. "I promised to take care of you," she whispered. "I promised our parents…"

Klaus shook his head. "They'll understand," he said. "Now go. Go!"

As soon as the word left his lips, Violet spun and punched Count Olaf as hard as she could in his face. The force of the blow, endowed with all her hatred and anger and frustration, sent him flying backwards to the ground. Violet kicked a significant amount of dirt in his eyes and then turned, to the horror and astonishment of the V.F.D. mob, and ran as fast as she could out into the horizon.

As she ran, she felt a sort of numbness spreading throughout her - not a cold numbness, but a numbness of emotion, as though her body was shutting down. The wind whipped harshly past her as the sound of fluttering crows grew increasingly distant and the cries of the mob faded away. That same wind sliced through to her core, seeming to carry with it her silent, inward scream of agony at leaving her siblings behind, and at the loss of all that had been good in her world.

Running should hardly be a cure for pain, but it seemed that by performing this simple exercise, Violet could escape all of the horrible things that had ever happened to her. She could outrun the fire and the death of her parents, outrun Count Olaf, outrun the fact that she was abandoning her brother and sister, outrun Mr. Poe and the damn fortune that had caused all this trouble. She could outrun anything at all.

Violet ran and ran and ran until she could run no more, and then she collapsed weakly onto the empty ground, doomed to await her fate.

- - - - - - - - -

Violet awoke to the sound of a very loud engine hurtling up behind her. She kept her eyes firmly closed, refusing to look up and see who it was. There was no point, as far as she could tell; either it was Count Olaf come to take her away, or someone else who would only wreak further havoc in her life.

The motor roared to a stop beside her and then went silent. There was a soft crunching as someone stepped onto the ground, and then Violet was kicked in the stomach, hard.

She did not even flinch at the pain. Her eyes fluttered open, and she discovered that she was looking up at Count Olaf. "Oh, good," he sneered, "You're still alive." He bent and lifted her bodily - a word which hear means "with no gentleness whatsoever towards a poor young girl who has just lost everything" - from the ground.

"Klaus and Sunny?" she asked, her voice a deadened monotone.

Olaf thumped her down on the front of his motorbike. "Burned at the stake," he said flatly, but Violet noticed with some surprise that there was no satisfaction in his voice.

"Officer Luciana?" she asked, not because she really cared. She had guessed, somewhere through the hazy cloud currently covering her mind, that Officer Luciana must have been an accomplice.

"She was Esmé Squalor, your former guardian," Olaf said shortly, dropping her on the bike and propping her up. "They discovered us both, but I left her to deal with them. I think she was burned, too."

Violet did not see any point in informing him of how monstrous this was. "You were dating her."

"I suppose so," Olaf said with a shrug. "We had some things in common, and she was conveniently available. It seemed like a good idea at the time."

Violet stared blankly at the horizon ahead of her. A lot of things seem like a good idea at the time, she reflected idly. It had seemed like a good idea to go the beach on the day her parents had died, and although some might have said that it had indeed been a good idea as she was still alive, Violet wished she were dead and gone just as her parents and her siblings now were. "I'm going to kill myself," she informed Olaf.

"Oh, no you're not!" Olaf snarled, climbing onto the bike behind her. "You and I, my dear, are going to have a nice, private little wedding ceremony, just like we had when we first met. Don't you remember?"

"It's not easy to forget almost being forced to wed a beast like you," Violet spat venomously.

Olaf slapped her across the face. "Name-calling isn't nice," he said, waving a finger at her, and with that, he started the motorbike up and began riding into the distance.

Violet gave a startled gasp as the bike leapt to life and began to rush off towards the horizon. "Why marry me?" she demanded, shouting over the roar of the engine. "Why not simply wait until I turn eighteen and then take the money from me?"

"Then the money will belong to you legally," Olaf shouted. "I can't let that happen. Now shut up. I have no interest in talking to you. My girlfriend just died, and I'd like a little time to mourn."

Something erupted inside Violet, and she twisted violently about to face Olaf as best she could. The motorbike lost its balance and tumbled to the ground. Olaf barely managed to shut it off and roll away from it, meanwhile twisting his ankle, before Violet was beating him furiously. "You horrible bastard!" she screamed, tears flowing freely from her eyes. "You wicked monster! You disgusting pig! How can you say something so horrendous to me? My brother and sister, the only people I had left in the world, are dead because of you, and you can sit there and pretend you're mourning Esmé! You left her to die! You chose that fate for her! MONSTER!" Violet threw one last furious punch and then collapsed, sobbing hysterically, against Olaf. He stared at her with a combination of shock and awkwardness, blood running freely from his nose and mouth.

"You will be reminded," he said, his voice nasally now, "That you also chose to abandon your siblings to their deaths. It is as much your fault that they are dead as it is mine."

Violet shuddered weakly at this most terrible of responses, but did not deny it. She had already arrived at the same conclusion, even if she had not voiced it aloud. The pain this realization caused her was so great and terrible that nothing Olaf could ever do to her would hurt her more. This, also, she knew with surprising clarity; and Olaf seemed to understand the same fact in that instance. Without another word, he lifted her from the ground again, righting the motorbike as he did so and grimacing in pain at his twisted ankle. He wiped his nose on the back of his hand and noticed the blood there. "You don't happen to have a handkerchief, do you?" he asked.

Violet looked at him despondently, as though to say, "Why on earth would I have a handkerchief? And even if I did, what makes you think I would be willing to give it to you?"

With an elaborate sigh that caused more blood to spurt from his nose, Olaf pulled out a knife hidden in his belt and cut loose a piece of his hideous blue jacket. He used this to slowly staunch the blood flow, sitting on the ground and holding it in place.

"Tilt your head back," Violet instructed automatically. When he shot her a strange look, she said, "It helps staunch the flow of blood."

Still watching her somewhat suspiciously, Olaf did as she had told him. It took a considerably long and deathly silent ten minutes, but at last it seemed his nose had stopped bleeding. "Well," he said, rising from the ground. "It seems we can leave at last."

"Where are we going?" Violet asked anxiously - not to say that she was anxious to get there; she was anxious in a bad way, meaning that she was frightened of where Olaf might take her.

"We are returning to my house," he said.

"You've been there the whole time?" Violet said in disbelief. "Why, the police could have found you at any time!"

"If they were as clever as you are, yes," Olaf said with a noticeable sneer. "But they quite lack the Baudelaires' quick wit."

Violet studied him as he went about brushing dirt and grass from his pant legs. She noticed that one of his hideously ugly rubber shoes was missing - probably that was how he had been identified. But who had revealed him, if not Sunny and Klaus? "Why do you hate us so much?" she asked aloud.

Olaf looked up at her, his one eyebrow rising in surprise. "I - you have money," he said irritably, looking back at himself as he continued his previous task. "And I need money very badly. That's all there is to it."

"You seem to hate us a lot more passionately than you hate anyone else," Violet noted. "Otherwise you wouldn't have gone this far."

"People do insane things for money," Olaf said shortly. "Get on the bike."

Violet glanced sidelong at the motorbike, less than pleased that it was to be their mode of transportation for however long it took to reach Count Olaf's house. Even more displeasing was the notion of having to lean up against him the entire ride home. "Isn't there another way to get - to get to your home?" she questioned, quickly veering from calling Count Olaf's lair 'home.'

"If you want to walk, be my guest," Olaf said, bowing mockingly to her.

"Very well," Violet said, and started walking.

None too surprisingly, Olaf dove after her and caught her wrist. "Don't you dare walk away from me!" he snarled, clutching her tightly. She struggled to jerk away.

"You offered me the option of walking," she spat, "And I chose it."

"I was being sarcastic," Olaf said, eyes flashing with anger. "Sarcastic means - "

"- Saying something in a satirical way," Violet finished, trying desperately to pull her arm from Olaf's grip. "Klaus told me that."

"Klaus was always too much of a bookworm for his own good," Olaf hissed, jerking hard on Violet's arm. She tumbled against him, and before she could escape he picked her up and slung her onto the motorbike again. "If I allowed you to walk, you could run away," he added. "I'm surprised you didn't think of it before."

"What's the point in running?" Violet said wearily. "I have nowhere to go anymore, do I?"

Olaf actually seemed to ponder this for a moment. "No, I suppose you don't," he said, looking at the ground. His shiny eyes seemed to see something, and he bent for it, scooping up whatever the object was in his hand.

"Drop something?" Violet asked, her tone biting.

"Just you mind your attitude, girl," Olaf said through gritted teeth. "Or you'll find yourself in more pain than you can imagine."

Violet turned her eyes to the empty horizon line. "You can't hurt me anymore," she said tonelessly.

Olaf chose not to respond to this; instead, he started up the motorbike and began riding across the empty landscape.

Violet closed her eyes and drifted into exhausted sleep.

- - - - - - - - -

When Violet awoke it was very dark outside, and she was being carried up a flight of stairs. "No," she whimpered, clawing at whoever was holding her. "Klaus… Sunny… mother…"

"Shut up," Olaf's voice hissed from above her. "You'll wake my associates."

"Want… home…" she mumbled, her eyes still closed tightly.

"This is your home."

"No!" she shrieked. "Not home! Never home!"

Something very closely akin to pain flashed across Olaf's face, but Violet didn't see it. "Shut up," he snarled again, and having said that, he kicked open a door as hard as he could. It made a loud banging noise as it smacked the wall and began to bounce back. He caught it with his foot and dropped Violet onto a none-too-soft mattress. "Go back to sleep," he commanded, and turning on his heel, he walked from the room and locked the door behind him.

Much as Violet hated to submit even slightly to Olaf's wishes, she almost immediately obeyed his order and fell asleep.

- - - - - - - - -

The powder-faced women woke Violet in the morning by shaking her violently. "Get up!" one of them shouted in her ear. "Get up! You're getting married today!"

Violet blinked owlishly at them. There was a small window in her room, and through it she noticed a stream of bright sunlight. "What…?" she mumbled, still disoriented from sleep.

"The Count is marrying you today," the second woman said. "We need to find you a dress. The judge has arrived, you know."

Violet looked up hopefully. "Justice Strauss?" She had begun to remember the events of the day - or days previous. She had no idea how long she'd slept.

"Of course not, you silly girl," the first woman said, laughing. "A different judge. He's been promised significant pay for his silence, once the fortune is the Count's."

Violet rubbed her eyes and stared down at herself. Her dress was rumpled and dirty, and her hair was loose and tangled. In short, she was not fit at all to be married. She doubted, however, that this would matter much to Count Olaf. "What time will the ceremony be?" she asked, hiding her face in her hands again.

"As soon as you're ready for it," the second woman told her.

Violet ran her fingers through her hair, trying to tame it into place, but after a short while she decided she simply did not care enough. "I suppose I'm ready, then," she said with a sigh.

The first woman looked shocked. "What?" she cried. "But look at you! Don't you want a dress? Don't you want a bath?"

Violet stood and met the women's gazes coolly. "Why should I bother to try to be more attractive for a man who certainly never tries to be more attractive for me?"

It was a good question, and it was said with the perfect amount of chilly aloofness - a phrase which here means, "with just the right amount of disdain." Both of the women exchanged a glance, and then shrugged. "It's your wedding," the first said, although she sounded almost… sad. "And I was so looking forward to playing dress-up with you…"

"What do you think I am, some kind of life-sized doll?" Violet asked icily.

The first woman looked glum. "I never had any pretty dolls to play with," she said. "I always wanted a little sister, so that she could have been my living doll…"

Violet's cold eyes seemed to soften a little. "Maybe another time," she said quietly, and with that she turned and walked with surprising conviction out the door.

- - - - - - - - -

There would be little point in describing to you the ceremony that occurred in Olaf's backyard. It was the same words that were heard at every wedding, the same pitiful "I do's," and the signing of the legal documents. Olaf monitored carefully to make sure that Violet signed with her right hand instead of her left, as such a simple ploy had been what destroyed him before, but she tried nothing of the sort. Interestingly, however, Olaf noted that she had begun to appear a little less defeated. She still looked miserable, but something about her was beginning to change. Olaf didn't understand the change, but he was suddenly very afraid of it. Almost the instant the vows were exchanged and the paper signed, he ordered her away. His new wife left without the slightest objection, but for an instant their eyes met, and he saw something cold and hard and bitter reflected in her still-young gaze - something that reminded him eerily of himself.

Olaf refused to entertain that notion.

- - - - - - - - -

The money, legally, was his now, and Olaf took it greedily and almost without remorse. He used the first of it to purchase himself a large and expansive house just outside of town. It was a veritable palace, with acres of gardens and groves and at least five floors. He hired servants to take care of the place and gave quarters to each and every one of his accomplices, although it was not long before he sent all but the two powder-faced women out.

The two women remained solely to see to Violet's needs. Since their wedding day Olaf had done his best to avoid her - strange, it would seem, since Violet had much more reason to do her best avoiding him. But that mysterious something he had spotted in her eyes had struck a wound deep inside him, and that frightened him more than anything. For this reason, he entrusted her to his two female accomplices' care.

Olaf designated to Violet a significant portion of the fifth floor. He took to referring to it as the Countess' Suite, although the two women soon began to call it the Studio. Olaf never ventured there; but he made certain Violet was provided for. He did not care that he was not honoring his promise to Klaus to release Violet; that was insignificant. And although Violet was of no use to him anymore, that small something he feared so much forced him to keep her locked safely away, where he knew she could not harm him.

Olaf and Violet's relationship remained in this state for seven long years. Violet asked little of Olaf. Olaf asked only one thing of her - do not stray.

Things might have remained this way until Olaf's or Violet's death, if that one fateful night had never happened…

- - - - - - - - -