Characters/Pairings: Nuala, Nuada, Abe/Nuala.
Disclaimer: Hellboy 2: The Golden Army and all its associated characters and concepts belong to a whole bunch of people who aren't me, including but not limited to Guillermo del Toro, who is pretty much God. I'm making no profit and intend no disrespect, so please don't sue me.
Author's Note / WARNINGS: This deals very, very heavily with abuse within a sibling relationship; you could interpret it as sexual, though that's only very vaguely alluded-to, sorta, and not explicit, at all. This story is meant to be dark and disturbing, not titillating. I sincerely hope I've done the subject justice, but the whole situation is fantasy and thus a bit tidier than real life is likely to be in its resolution. Your mileage may vary, and if things along those lines are likely to upset you, I suggest skipping this one. It is not my goal to traumatize anyone.
Also I don't really remember Nuada's exact words, in waking the Golden Army. I'm guessing, and a helpful person on LJ remembered the word "dispute" . . . so hopefully this is right, and if it's not I'll correct it when the DVD comes out.
I could make you go away.
Words spoken millennia ago in childish anger echoed in Nuala's head, so loud it felt as though the cavernous chamber should be ringing with them. Once upon a time, a very long time ago, she learned to be very still when her brother looked her way. Their father tried – half-heartedly, simultaneously proud and shamed and a little frightened by the son he knew was a monster – to intercede between them, but there was little anyone could have done. Nuala and Nuada lived in their own private world, two souls that ought to have been one, and Nuala understood from a very young age that the one they should have been was not her.
I could make you go away, he'd hissed in her ear, and she'd felt the terrible strength of his will – he was like an angry, petulant god, waiting in mercurial judgment over her. I could just be both of us. Father would never even know. She believed him.
Nuala learned to be very, very still, and just let him have his way. She survived in the spaces of his distraction, careful not to take up too much space in the mind they shared – his mind, not hers. She was careful not to make him slip as he learned to wield a blade, careful not to tangle the thread of his thoughts when he studied. When it amused him to notice her, she let him maneuver her through her shadow existence like a doll, unresisting, and when he desired to focus elsewhere she was quiet. For stretches that might have been hours or days or years she was as still and silent within their mind as she could be, careful to bury her own thoughts, the feel of her own limbs, the beat of her own heart.
Then he left, and at first the loneliness was almost unbearable. She didn't know what to do, felt like a forgotten toy, dropped in a corner with limbs all askew, collecting dust. She waited for him to come back, and waited, and waited, and over time – a very long time – she began to grow both restless and despairing, willing to risk. Thus she learned that she could move on her own without any dire consequences, now that he wasn't watching. Quietly, carefully, she could creep through the hidden, dusty spaces of their shared understanding; could read a book and ponder its words, or eat a piece of fruit and truly taste it, even stretch long-atrophied muscles and run, with him all unawares.
Sometimes she let herself imagine that it wasn't all done in secret, that he knew, that he wanted for her to be happy. She wished for his happiness; love tangled with self-preservation, and both refused to fade.
It remained important never to do anything that couldn't bear interruption; at any moment his mind, his will could overwhelm hers. He no longer deigned to give her his purposeful attention, but the shared nature of their existence was unchanged. Without warning, foreign sights and sounds and smells all colored by his ever-present rage would come rushing in over her, sweeping her away. It was important that she never, ever cling, never struggle against the current. Even over untold miles and after too many years to count, the threat hovered, the fear of oblivion the one unbending rule of her tenuous existence. She must never, never disturb him, never stand in his way. Nuala knew her brother's mind as she could only dream of knowing her own, and knew he could – and would – simply remove the obstacle.
I could make you go away; it felt as if the words echoed down the long corridor of her lifetime, not fading but growing louder and louder and louder until now, here, they were all-consuming and deafening.
I could make you go away, whispered every hiss and clank of steam and metal, chanted the weight of that terrible crown upon Nuada's head, roared his mad, triumphant rage. I could make you go away, beat her heart. I could make you go away, said the anguished guilt in Abraham's eyes. I could make you go away, whispered the harsh golden light and the scorching scent of nigh-molten metal.
I could make you go away, and the golden army lurched and ground to shuddering attention, as if the demons of her brother's mind had been assembled by clockwork pieces, brought to a horrible, mechanical mockery of life. I could make you go away, said their blank, purposeless eyes, waiting.
I could make you go away, echoed the entire world, and it wasn't louder than the shriek of denial building at the back of Nuala's mind. A long, long time ago she had taken the seed of her own rage, twin to her brother's, and buried it.
It had grown.
There was, after all, something in the world more horrifying than the idea of being erased, and it was to be here, now, in this place, staring out of the prison of her own eyes into the desperate hope in Abraham's. Here was a being – another mind that, just in brushing against hers, had shown her beauty and brilliance such as she had not known existed in the world – here was a being who would betray everything for her. For her. For the pitiful shadow of a soul that could only lurk and scurry inside her own head, so afraid, so afraid –
- so afraid she'd very nearly erased herself.
I could make you go away, said the twisted strength of her brother's mind, always there, always seeming ready to strike her down - and hidden in the dark where she had learned to live, Nuala whispered back, so could I. She wasn't sure she believed it, but she was certain, more certain than she'd ever been of anything, that it didn't matter if she was wrong.
"Who will dispute my right?" Nuada roared, his voice spilling into the far corners of the chamber like boiling flames, scorching tongues of self-righteous fury licking at the edges of Nuala's mind, wanting to burn away her will to resist.
She held Abraham's eyes and swallowed down the terribly chill of the look there, the look that said he believed himself damned for this, for her. She felt nothing but cold as she said, so quietly, so calmly, "I do."
The silence was sudden and absolute.
Seventy times seventy eyes watched in blank disinterest as Nuada turned to her, his shocked face struck as empty as the metallic features of his soldiers. Nuala waited, unafraid, for his will to slam into her – a feeling she remembered as like being caught by a violent sea and tossed to shore, only worse, so much worse, and this time she knew that it wouldn't end – she would end.
"What did you say?" he asked, low and incredulous.
"I challenge you," Nuala repeated softly, "for control of the golden army; let the question be decided only by death."
He stared. Had her heart ever beat before? Its thumping felt alien in her chest, some trapped thing struggling for freedom. Her palms were sweating, the fine lace of the dress he'd chosen for her chafing at her neck. Her belly was empty, her shoes were pinching, the cuts to her arm and her face stung. She breathed. Her heart beat.
"No," Nuada scoffed, voice low and incredulous and shaking. "No," he shook his head, gave her half a scornful smile, "You cannot -" Nuala smiled back, just a little, her eyes holding his. He shook his head with greater urgency, smile slipping, and gave her his back. He gestured emphatically to his unmoving, unblinking soldiers.
"Kill them!" Nuada ordered, stabbing his blade in the direction of Abraham and his companions. They tensed, but they were the only thing in the chamber that moved at Nuada's command.
The Golden Army watched, waiting, harmless as tin soldiers.
Nuada whirled on her; she could feel the enormity of his horror. "What have you done?" he whispered hoarsely.
Nuala just held his gaze, felt the hovering weight of his mad strength of will. She clutched her trembling, sweating hands – her hands - together, waiting to be crushed and swept away. I was, she whispered in the back of their shared mind. I did this one thing, and it cannot be undone. I was, I was, I was here and I did this and you cannot unmake that, even if you unmake me.
"What have you done?!" Nuada roared, advancing on her, hand raised. Very, very distantly, Nuala was aware of Abraham's cry of protest; it was lost in the all-consuming awareness that this was the end, this was all her childhood terror come to pass, this was the full, unchecked force of her brother's will come rushing down on her. His mind crashed into hers, over hers –
- and shattered like so much brittle stone.
Nuala stumbled, just a little, arms out-flung and breath sucked in gasping; Nuada fell hard to his knees. The spear clattered from his limp fingers to the floor, rolled away, disappeared over the side between the enormous grinding gears.
For a moment, or a day, or an age, their eyes just held, as one in their shock.
I could make you go away, whispered a voice that was both and neither, as Nuala stirred, then walked on trembling, unsteady legs the few paces that separated them. She lifted the crown of Bethmoora from Nuada's head and held it out before her face a moment, watching its glinting dispassionately, absorbing the intricacy of its carving, the way it sparkled and whispered and tempted. It had an almost living warmth at first, but in her hands it grew dull and cool, lifeless and brittle with her rejection of it. She stepped a pace back and simply let go. It fell to the floor and broke into a million glimmering shards, sharp as needles.
All around them, the unnatural fires in the bellies of golden soldiers went out, their eyes losing their soulless glow, their mechanized shoulders slumping. Nuala felt Nuada's eyes on her, looking up at her from the empty, echoing cavern that was his mind, but she did not look down. She studied her own hands; they felt cold, and she didn't know what she had done.
I am, whispered that long-buried seed at the back of her mind. I am more than you know I am. I could be something great and terrible.
"Nuala," murmured a voice to her side; she flinched, startled, to find that Abraham stood to her right, one hand outstretched – in supplication? In offering? Anung un Rama, son of the Fallen One, was binding her brother's hands. Agent Krauss picked up a shard of the crown and muttered over it, while Elizabeth watched the somnolent army uneasily. Nuala just stared blankly at Abraham's hand.
"Please," he entreated softly.
Please still be there, inside your head? Please still be yourself?
She realized she could still feel Nuada, not gone, only broken – he was already beginning to recover, piece by splintered, twitching piece. It would be slow, but he would be himself again, she thought, in time; there was a part of her that resented that with a sharp ferocity.
It was too much like his rage, that resentment, and it frightened her enough to make her reach out, clutching at Abraham's hand. She remembered his touch as cool, but now it was shockingly warm. Then he was there in her mind, with her, holding her, his thoughts and emotions falling on her like warm rain, soft and then faster and then drowning, melting, stumbling, pouring out her eyes and running down her face and falling into his shaking arms and mouth going wide with something too big to be a scream.
"I'm here," she muttered, when she found words again, over and over, "I'm here, I'm still here, I am, I am, I am."