Notes: This is a fic based on the musical Elisabeth. With a side of historical-research thrown in for good measure. And the version of Death herein is based on Uwe Kroeger's version of Death as played in Essen.
Its also a Christmas fic for the lovely Lamath on LJ.
He couldn't remember the first time he heard the quiet whisper.
It had been in his mother-tongue and it hadn't been unkind. Not at once.
He was used to harsh words and harsh people, but never a soft whisper that lured and teased and enticed. It hadn't been unkind, but it hadn't been kind either. It was more of a quiet amusement, gently mocking.
Perhaps it had been in Paris, when he was a child among others in the cold, high-walled rooms of the orphanage. Or the streets when he had walked and struggled and scraped together a life.
It might have been when he moved with the army. He had been given weapons and training and he had wondered what it would be like to kill someone. It might have been then, when he had lain awake in the night, imagining battles and becoming a hero.
He stared up at the stone ceiling above him. He could remember nights when there had been nothing but stars, but that had been years before. Now, he was held in by stone and metal on all sides and they had said he would stay there until he rotted.
He slowly started to grin.
They would remember him now, all of them. They still did. He heard them spitting in the corridors after looking in at him, the man who killed an Empress. Maybe they hated him, but they would remember and his name would never, ever be forgotten.
The voice had been right, making him brave when he was ready to run, promising him he would be famous and that he would be striking a great blow for anarchy at the heart of the Empire. He had almost been sure he felt hands touch his shoulders, steadying him, as he pulled out the blade.
There had only been a little bit of blood on his hands.
He was sure he had heard laughter as he was stumbling back from her, but the voice had been quiet since then. It was years ago, and he was alone.
He wanted to write in his journal now. He had time, all of the time in the world, and he wanted to write something that they would want to read. He had learned to write and to arrange his tale. He had found an education in the years of solitude in the cell since the voice had guided him to her. He had taken shelter in it, when he had nothing else. They would want to understand him and he would be famous and his words would prove he was not stupid as they had all said he was.
They had taken his memoirs from him, though, and thrashed him when he had demanded them back. He had fought and raged, losing his temper, until they had beaten him down. They hadn't listened to him. The journal was incomplete, which meant he had to finish it. He had not had a chance to shout his message about the destruction of the Empire. They wanted him remembered as the foolish anarchist, not the triumphant one.
"They laugh at you."
Luigi Lucheni sat bolt upright on the bed. The voice! Only it was not merely a voice now. It had a face and a shape. It was a man with fair hair and cold, cold eyes. He was leaning against the wall, his arms folded over his chest, his clothing all black. One foot was resting against the damp stone of the wall.
"I made a stand against the Empire!" Lucheni protested. "They did nothing, but I did something for the cause."
The man didn't move, but blue eyes slipped sideways to look at him. "You did," he agreed so softly. He sounded almost sorry for Luigi. "So much, yet they would think you did it for your self-glorification."
Scrambling off the bed, outraged, Lucheni stared at him. "They would not dare!"
The man straightened from the wall. He was tall too, taller than Lucheni. "Men are cowards," he murmured. "Fools with more word than deed." The backs of two cool fingers traced down his cheek. "Few have courage and nobility to match your action."
"I did something," Lucheni whispered. "It was more than them." His voice rose to a scream as he spun and faced the door that hid the ones who watched and mocked and beat him. "More than them!"
"So much more," the whisper of the voice was close to his ear. He could feel the chill of the breath, the press of hands on his hips. Any other man and he would have fought free, but it was the voice and the voice had given him so much strength. "You have the heart of a warrior."
"I made a stand," he said again, quieter now.
"You never faltered." Lips were so close to his ear. He could feel them. The hands at his hips slowly moved, one pressing against his chest, pulling him back against a firm chest. The other slid up before him to curl long fingers over his shoulder.
"They all need to know." His voice was shaking. He didn't know why. He wanted to pull away from the man with the voice, but instead leaned back into the only person who had never laughed at him or called him stupid. "I need to finish it."
"Would it be enough?" The whisper made a shiver run down his back.
"They would understand..."
A sigh was as cold as ice on his skin. "Words, they would say," the voice breathed. "You, who live by deed and action, falling into their meaningless association. You always thought words were not enough before, Luigi."
"This is..." He faltered, hesitated, stumbled. "It isn't the same."
"Words are forgotten," the voice said softly, almost sadly. "Even ones with resonance such as yours." The man's cheek pressed to his hair and Lucheni shuddered. "You know I only speak to aid you. As I always have."
Lucheni squeezed his eyes shut. "What else can I do?" he asked, his voice shaking. "I have done great things. They won't forget what I did."
"Great and terrible things are remembered," the voice agreed. Lucheni felt the hands move on him, turning him to face the man and those cold, blue eyes. "But she was beautiful and revered. In her death, you have immortalised her, eternally glorious." The hand that had rested on his shoulder touched his cheek softly. "She will be remembered."
Lucheni stared at him in shaken disbelief. "They remember me," he said. "They do."
"The ones who heard and the ones who saw," the man said softly. "But if you write, if you explain, how are you any different from those who cast you aside and dismissed you? You will be as they are - mocked and despised by those who do not understand your ideals. You are a man of action, Luigi. You always have been."
"But I'm a prisoner," Lucheni whispered. He could feel a hand at his hip, the cold wall at his back. He didn't remember moving. The light through the bars above his head made the man shine, all golden hair, ice-cold eyes and white, white teeth.
Those eyes narrowed. "You think that walls and bars can stop you, if you truly wish to show the world your strength of will?" he said softly. "They may chain you, bind you." A fingertip touched his lower lip, which was still swollen and bloodied. "Even beat you, but you have the means to choose your end. Your own choice, a final statement."
Lucheni tried to shy back. "My own end?" he whispered.
"Eternally remembered, the man who killed and died for the cause," his friend said softly, his lips smiling, but his eyes emotionless. Those lips were closer to his now and he had nowhere to go, no way to escape. "Your name, immortalised."
"My name..." he echoed faintly. The hand at his hip was between them now, at his belt, loosing it, drawing it free. He wanted to shy back, recoil from the unfamiliar touch. "Wh-why?" Fair brows arched. "My end? My... death?"
The man's fingertips were the only thing separating their lips now. His mouth smiled again, and he whispered, "Would you be forgotten? Left to rot in a box of stone until no one, not even the guards, remember the reason you are here?" Those cool fingertips slid down his chin and he felt the words against his lips. "You are better than this, Luigi."
It was true.
He was better than this. They had laughed at him, but he had done things they had only dreamed of and spoken about in whispers. He had been brave and he had dared to attack the people who suppressed those who were like him.
But to die?
He shook his head, his hands pressing against the man's chest, trying to push him back, but he would not be move, his smiling mouth suddenly cruel, mocking, his eyes harder. The hand that had rested so lightly on his hip was gone, had been for several moments.
As the belt tightened around his neck, he realised why.
His hands leapt from the man's chest, tugging at the belt, but it was too tight and his nails scratched helplessly at his throat.
"But you h-helped me," he choked.
The laughter was quiet, two cool hands smoothing his hair back from his brow, cradling his face with mocking tenderness.
"Helped you?" the man with the voice whispered against Lucheni's lips. "I needed a weapon, Luigi. One without thought or reason of his own." Lucheni felt the smile against his trembling mouth as his vision started to darken. "I needed a fool who would do what he was told."
"Yes." The voice whispered. He could not longer see, his mind bursting with the pain of it, of the knowledge, his lungs screaming out for air. The man's mouth touched his softly, a loving kiss, and everything changed around them.
As he fell into the darkness, he heard the amused whisper, "My stupid little Luigi."