Something Real to Cling To
Chapter One: Goth Opera
Summary: Thanks to Shilo, Blind Mag survives the Genetic Opera, although she still loses her eyes. Shilo is now alone…except for her now wounded godmother and the man who robs graves, sells Zydrate, and has an inexplicable interest in her.
Disclaimer: I do not own Repo! The Genetic Opera, unless we're talking about a copy of the DVD or the soundtrack.
Author's Notes: This is my first Repo fic. I cried when Mag died, and I have a penchant for writing fix fics to keep my favorite characters alive. This might have something to do with the fact that my favorite characters have a penchant for dying horribly.
Shilo pressed her face into her knees, fighting back tears. She was seventeen years old (it had sounded so mature earlier that day—but she felt so young and helpless now!), weighed barely a hundred pounds…and Rotti Largo expected to take down a crazed, dangerous Repo Man all by herself. Granted, he was about to cure her lifelong illness, of course he would want her to repay him for that in some way, and he must know she had no money of her own…but still, she wished that Rotti had assigned her a less daunting task.
A familiar name reached her ears and her head jerked up. An announcer was proclaiming that it was Blind Mag's turn to sing. But Amber Sweet had just been performing; was she finished already?
Shilo thought she could barely hear a few introductory notes being played on a harpsichord, and then came the familiar light, lovely voice Shilo had admired for so long. Yes, Mag was performing. Blind Mag, Shilo's godmother, who had risked angering GeneCo when she was already marked for repossession to meet Shilo only once, who Shilo desperately wanted to live…
Already marked for repossession…
A thought struck Shilo so violently she almost flinched. She was supposed to be tracking down a Repo Man. Mag was to have her eyes taken after her final song. If the Repo Man had gone rogue and abandoned GeneCo, he might not be the one who was to repossess Blind Mag's eyes…but then again he might be.
Shilo leapt to her feet and hurried to the stage. As she grew closer, the velvet strains of Mag's song grew louder. A thin sheet of light shone from stage right, and it seemed to grow as Shilo approached it, and then she could see the silhouette of Rotti Largo. Why was he watching from the stage? He should have been in the audience. Shilo sidled up beside him and Mag's voice filled her ears. She had heard that voice so many times, on TV and on recordings…but that was nothing compared to hearing it up close. Shilo gazed up at her idol as she was lifted up by a harness, arms spread out almost as if she were nailed onto a crucifix. As Shilo watched, Mag suddenly whipped her head to the side—a most uncharacteristic gesture for the always composed singer—and looked at Rotti. No, she glared at Rotti. Shilo herself came close to flinching at the intensity of Mag's ice-blue synthetic glower…and her heart almost stopped at Mag's next words.
"Come take these eyes…I would rather be blind!"
Blind Mag dug two long, claw-like decorations attached to her index fingers into her eye sockets and blood gouted from the wounds. She wrenched out the round white blood-drenched eyeballs and held her arms to the ceiling, grinning obscenely, almost victoriously.
Rotti whirled on her, shocked. "What are you doing here?"
The first coherent thought Shilo could form was "Get Mag down!"
For a moment, Rotti's face darkened in a way that made Shilo cringe again, but he took hold of a lever and pulled it, causing Mag's harness to be lowered slowly. Shilo raced onto the stage, reaching up to Blind Mag, helping her to the floor while avoiding the spiked fence. There were rivulets of water pouring down Shilo's face and she didn't know how they got there. "Mag! Mag! Why did you do it? Why?"
Mag sank to the stage, with Shilo's arms still wrapped around her midsection. Shilo had her face pressed into Mag's shoulder, sobbing. Though she had only heard it once, Blind Mag recognized the voice. "Shilo? What are you doing here?" Her voice was strained and thin with pain.
"I c-couldn't let the Repo Man get to you!"
The curtain fell, shielding Mag and Shilo from the eyes of the audience. Shilo heard Rotti's voice, talking about an encore. Shilo made as if to help Mag to her feet.
"Shilo…leave me here."
"Rotti will have me killed, no matter what you do." Mag's voice was soft now, resigned.
"But why? You t-took your own eyes out, and that's what they wanted! Your eyes!"
Mag's hand reached up for Shilo's face and found it after a few seconds of fumbling. "No, Shilo, it isn't that GeneCo wants my eyes back. It's that Rotti wants my life."
Shilo tugged on Mag's arm, trying to get her to stand. "I can help you! Please, come with me!"
Blind Mag moaned in pain as she stood, leaning on Shilo. "I'm a dead woman walking, little one. Please don't be too upset if you see me cut down in front of you."
"Don't talk like that," Shilo cried, leading Mag offstage. "Please." They reached the room where Shilo had been waiting for Repo Man and had set up a trap; the gown and headdress she had been wearing, draped over a chair to look like she was sitting there. Shilo sat Mag down in a small alcove where Shilo had planned to wait for the Repo Man. "You'll be all right! Once I bring the rogue Repo Man to Rotti, I'll talk to him…"
"You've made a deal with Rotti?" Mag's voice rose in panic, or perhaps it was only the pain of her eyes being ripped out. "You can't trust him, Shilo! I came to your home to warn you to never be involved with GeneCo! Please, for your own sake…whatever it is Rotti asked of you, don't do it. He is…evil."
Shilo sat in conflicted agony for a moment. Was it true that Rotti wanted Mag dead regardless of who was in possession of her eyes? But Rotti had offered her a cure to her blood disease…and Shilo would do anything to be rid of the illness that made her so weak. After she had her cure, she would never associate with GeneCo again. "It will be fine. I promise. Stay here; I'll come back for you. You can hide at my house."
As Shilo moved to get up, Mag grasped at her, managing to get a hold on one of Shilo's arms. Surprised, Shilo fell backward into a crushing embrace. "I promised your mother I'd take care of you." Mag squeezed Shilo with strength Shilo wouldn't have expected. "My goddaughter…please be careful. If I don't live to see you again, please take care of yourself."
Shilo remembered when her blood disease had caused her physical pain, her father would let her squeeze his hand, and that made the pain a little better. She reasoned that that was why Mag was holding her tightly and stayed in the embrace for a while, hoping she could help lessen Mag's suffering, for how terribly must it hurt to tear out one's eyes?
Blind Mag, the famous singer, the voice of GeneCo, the celebrity who Shilo had long admired, was clinging to Shilo in agony and calling her her goddaughter. It was such a strange and disquieting change that Shilo didn't even want to think about it.
She heard movement behind her. "Stay here," Shilo whispered to Mag and slipped free of the embrace. Sure enough, there was the Repo Man, reaching for Shilo's headdress. Barely thinking of what she was doing, Shilo seized a shovel she had found—it must have been a prop for one show; why else would it be in the opera house?—and swung it. She was tiny, and there wasn't much force behind the swing, but the back of the blade struck the Repo Man's helmet with a thunk. He fell, he yanked of his helmet…and for the second time that night, Shilo felt so shocked that she worried her illness might overcome her.
The man in the Repo Man suit was none other than her father.
He seemed not to be able to look at her. Instead, he spoke. "Didn't I tell you not to go out, didn't I?"
Shilo felt her throat grow thick with sadness. "You did. You did."
"Didn't I say the world was cruel, didn't I?"
Shilo choked back a sob. Her father was a Repo Man, a heartless killer who cut pieces out of living people for money. Had he been the one who was assigned to repossess Mag's eyes? Was that why he had refused to help Mag? Oh, yes, the world was indeed cruel! "You did, you did…"
Shilo felt as if the might vomit as the man dressed in the uniform of a legal murderer begged her to go home with him and forget everything that had happened—that he was a Repo Man, not a doctor! How could she simply smile and agree knowing that her father was a slaughterer, and that he had lied to her about it?
Her sadness turning to anger—anger was stronger than sadness, and made her feel less helpless—she shoved the man who she no longer accepted as her father, flung his helmet at him, and raced to the stage where Rotti would give her her cure.
She heard her father following her, she saw black-clad GeneCo employees rushing to apprehend him as she ran. Behind her she could hear the sickening sound of a blade singing through the air and impacting flesh, but she didn't stop until she had reached the stage.
Rotti was waiting for her. His two sons stood some distance behind him. Shilo stood next to him and waited; he gave her a benevolent smile as the Repo Man rushed onto the stage, quickly incapacitating two of Rotti's bodyguards. "Well done, Shilo," said Rotti.
The Repo Man, an expression of cold rage marring his features, moved toward Rotti…but then one of Rotti's sons lunged forward and slashed at the Repo Man's leg with a knife. The man shouted, blood spurted forth as he fell, and suddenly he was Nathan Wallace again, vulnerable and wounded.
"Dad!" Shilo shouted.
Rotti laid a hand on Shilo's shoulder. "You've exceeded my greatest expectations."
An almost choking phlegm rose in Shilo's throat; she coughed lightly to clear it. All she wanted was her cure, and then she could walk away from GeneCo just as Mag had told her. "I just want to get my cure." And yet… "But…he's my father."
"Ah, but he hid his Repo life from you, didn't he? There are other things he's hidden from you!"
Nathan looked up at Shilo pleadingly. "Shilo, please…"
"Dad…I no longer trust you."
"Did you know he killed your mother?" Rotti's voice came again, almost snarling. The words felt like a blow to Shilo. Her father had killed her mother? But he had adored her!
"That was just an accident!" cried Nathan.
Shilo swallowed hard. Her father had lied to her about being a Repo Man…but he wouldn't have deliberately killed his wife. "And that's not his greatest fib," Rotti hissed, enjoying the words.
"What?" Shilo whispered. What else could her father have hidden from her?
"Shilo," Nathan choked. "Don't listen to him. Can't we just go home? I can explain…"
"No! What is it?" Shilo shouted.
"Tell her! Tell her!" Rotti exhorted, pointing a sausage-like finger at Nathan. Rotti's sons joined in, and even the audience, rising to their feet.
"Tell me!" Shilo echoed, almost not wanting to know what other terrible things her father could have done. But Nathan hung his head and said nothing.
Almost glorying in the words, Rotti spoke for him. "May I introduce you to the man who made you sick? He's poisoned all your medicine."
That was too much. Shilo dropped to her knees in anguish. Her father was a murderer, a betrayer…and he was the cause of all her sickness. "No…"
"Shilo, forgive me!" Nathan howled. But she didn't hear him. Her mind, not to mention her frail body, could only take so much. She felt her heart race, impossibly fast and irregular, her lungs spasm…and mercifully, everything went black.
Shilo always woke disoriented after she had fainted. This time, she felt as if she had relived the entire past week in ten seconds. She blinked and struggled to her feet, praying that she had only dreamed the image of her father's leg being slashed by Rotti Largo's son. Then Rotti was supporting her with an arm around her shoulders, talking to her. "Your mother once promised her love to me. Had she never fled, you would be mine."
Was that true? Had Shilo's mother been involved with Rotti? But Mag had been Shilo's mother's best friend, and she swore that Rotti was coldhearted…surely Mag would have objected…
"Deny your father now for the world to see!" Rotti encouraged, extending an arm to the audience. Then he reached into a pocket and withdrew an object so unexpected that it took Shilo a few seconds to realize what it was. It was…a pistol? "Kill him!"
"What?" Shilo gasped. From the audience, she thought she heard the Largo boy who had attacked her father holler back:
Rotti saw Shilo's terror and his fatherly smile returned. "And I'll leave you GeneCo." He pushed the pistol into her hand. It felt heavy and completely wrong in her tiny hand.
"You want to…pay me to…kill my father?" Shilo cried. She looked at Rotti's smile, at her father, now helpless in a wheelchair on stage right…and she flung the gun down at Rotti's feet. "I'm not a murderer!"
Rotti picked up the gun and lifted it as if he intended to fire a bullet into the ceiling. "But you share your dad's genetics…what if he passed this to you?" Rotti proffered the pistol again. Shilo stared at it as if she feared it would bite her.
"I don't have to share his choices!"
Rotti glowered. "Didn't you say you were infected? Didn't you?"
Yes, she had said that…to herself, in the privacy of her own room. Her father hadn't heard her. How could Rotti have known she said that? Unless…
Unless Rotti had been spying on her. Mag had said he was untrustworthy; Shilo had even seen him claim he owned her…and now he was trying to make Shilo kill her father. What wouldn't he do to control the people around him?
Shilo's father cried out in anguish then. "I poisoned you! I'm worse than Rotti…imprisoned you! I couldn't lose you…what have I done? Forgive me, Shilo, I drugged your blood! Oh God, what have I done to you?"
"You used my mother's death to use my father!" shouted Shilo, for why else would her father become a Repo Man? "You'd use my father's death to use me too!"
Nathan spoke again, obviously hazy with the pain of his leg injury. "Shilo…remember that it's up to you…to shape your life into something worth remembering!"
Rotti's expression grew dark again, twisted, frightening, and in that split second Shilo knew that Mag was exactly right about him being evil. Then he aimed the gun and Shilo realized where it was pointing a millisecond too late. "No!"
Nathan crumpled in the wheelchair. "Dad!" Shilo wailed, running to him. She pressed her hands to the wound from every angle she could think of, trying to stanch the bloodflow, but it was useless. The persistent red liquid hissed out from beneath her fingers.
Vaguely, behind her, she heard a sound as a dying Rotti sank to the ground, but it didn't matter; her father was slumping to the ground. She guided him to the stage, clinging to him. Her earlier anger evaporated; all she wanted to do now was forgive him.
"Dad, be still," Shilo sing-songed. "There's nothing you need to say."
"Shi, your mother's calling me," murmured Nathan, his eyes already looking somewhat distant. His face was tranquil, seemingly no longer affected by the pain of his mortal wound. Shilo squeezed his hand tightly.
"I didn't know I'd love you so much," Shilo choked, "…but I do."
Nathan turned his head, making an effort to focus on his daughter. "Sometimes I'd stay up all night…wishing to God that I was the one who died…"
"…but I didn't know I'd love you so much. I didn't know I'd love you so much, but I do." Nathan—he was all Nathan now, not an inch the Repo Man—closed his eyes. "Shilo, go."
"Dad, I won't leave you here. You will live!"
Shilo's father smiled. "But you've already saved me, dear. And we will always have each other…"
"…in our time of need," Shilo finished with him. "Daddy, you're the world to me."
What strength Nathan had had to lift up his head failed him; his head dropped to Shilo's knee.
"Dad?" Shilo whispered. Then, louder, "Dad?"
Though Shilo had known her father was moribund, the reality that he was dead struck her. Never again would he hug her or say goodnight to her or tell her to take her medicine. She felt tears pouring hotly down her face as she clutched her father's body. Desperate words fell from her lips unbidden. "Dad, no, get up…please get up…"
The audience murmured in the background while Shilo wept, but she couldn't hear them. All she heard was the sound of her own sobs, muffled against the dead Nathan's chest. When she was finally spent, she sat up, shaking, looking at her father's corpse, realizing that his death meant something other than tragedy.
"Years," she whispered to herself. "It's been so many years…"
All her life, she had resented the blood disease she had inherited from her mother, cursed her heredity every day. But she hadn't inherited the disease from her mother, had she? Her illness had been caused by her father in order to keep her from the cruelties of the world. As long as she never took her "medicine" again, she would be healthy. In a twisted way, Rotti Largo had cured her. She was free of her disease.
"Free…at last," she murmured. On unsteady legs, she walked off the stage, carried primarily from her liberty from her genetic destiny.
But now what? Go back to her house, and…do what? She still knew almost nothing about the world outside her bedroom. And she had no money, unless her father's money would go to her. And now that her father was dead…
Though she still had a guardian, didn't she? Blind Mag. Her godmother. Who was still backstage in the prop room where Shilo had confronted her father, bleeding from empty eye sockets. Shilo raced to the room, where Mag was slumped against the wall. Her eyelids were puckered inwards over her eye sockets and she wasn't moving.
"Mag?" Shilo went to her godmother's side. Mag was breathing quickly and shallowly, and did not respond when Shilo laid a hand on her shoulder. She was probably falling unconscious due to the pain of her injuries, or else she was going into shock. Shilo took both of Mag's hands and squeezed. "Mag?"
Mag stirred a little. "Shilo?" Her voice was weak.
Shilo said Mag's name again, crying a little this time.
"Shilo? What's wrong?"
"Dad," Shilo whispered.
"Nathan? What happened to him?" Mag struggled to sit up straight.
"Rotti shot him." Shilo's voice cracked. "He's dead."
Mag groaned in pain. "I'm not surprised. Poor Nathan."
"Rotti is dead too."
Shilo slipped an arm around Mag, trying to get her to her feet. Mag managed to stand, whimpering. "It hurts."
"We can get you to my house. There are painkillers there."
Blind Mag said nothing, just walked with Shilo in silence until they reached the limousine that had brought Shilo to the opera; she had asked the driver to wait for her. She helped Mag into the car; Mag lay down on the seat. Shilo almost hoped Mag would actually pass out so she wouldn't feel any more pain.
"Take me home, please," said Shilo to the driver, who started the car and said nothing. Mag whined as the car ran over a rough spot in the road; Shilo carefully guided her godmother's head into her lap, thinking that might help. She touched Mag's dark hair, which she had long admired. It occurred to Shilo that there had never been any physical contact between her and Mag before that day; at the same time the previous night, Shilo would have still thought of Blind Mag as the incredibly talented, composed, beautiful singer who Shilo idolized and longed to meet. Now Mag was her godmother, badly injured, and having her hair stroked by Shilo. But as Shilo trailed her fingers over Mag's scalp, she couldn't help but think it felt right. After all, Mag was all Shilo had now. And if GeneCo wanted their former voice dead, then Blind Mag had lost her livelihood and would need Shilo to protect her. Except Shilo couldn't imagine protecting anybody by herself.
Presently the limo reached the Wallace residence. Blind Mag was barely conscious; Shilo was too small to carry her and had to wake her up (so to speak) so they could walk together into the house. Shilo managed to get Mag to her bedroom to lie down.
"Shilo? You said you had painkillers?" Mag's voice was so strained Shilo could barely hear her.
"I'll be right back!"
Shilo rushed downstairs. She had explored the rest of the house a bit when her father had been working, despite the fact that she usually left her room to collect insects in the graveyard. She knew enough to be able to fetch the acetaminophen/codeine pills that had always worked for her worst pains from a certain cabinet in the kitchen. She dashed back up to Blind Mag and offered her two pills (twice the recommended dose, but Shilo figured Mag needed it) and a glass of water. Mag was able to sit up long enough to take the pills.
"It should kick in soon," said Shilo.
"Thank you, Shilo. Thank you." Mag reached for Shilo, her hand moving through empty air for a bit until her palm found Shilo's cheek. Shilo could tell that Mag was trying to thank her not just for the medicine, but for keeping her from any GeneCo employees who had been assigned to kill her and for bringing her to the house.
It wasn't long before Mag had fallen asleep. The codeine had always been very effective at knocking Shilo out as well. She changed into a nightgown and climbed into bed, but she couldn't help but think that Mag couldn't sleep comfortably in her costume, especially when the codeine wore off. So Shilo dug through her wardrobe to find the longest nightgown she had and set about changing Mag into it. She hesitated at first; surely it would be disrespectful to undress Mag. But…she was badly injured and the most important thing was that she was comfortable. So Shilo carefully turned Blind Mag onto her stomach, unfastened the corset that was part of her dress, and peeled off the costume. Much to Shilo's relief, Mag was wearing undergarments beneath the dress.
A few moments later, Shilo had successfully gotten the nightgown onto Mag's thin body and buttoned it up. She was still wearing a pair of tights, but Shilo felt it was inappropriate to remove those. Shilo briefly got up to turn off the lights, and then carefully covered her godmother with the sheets.
Shilo was exhausted, but couldn't sleep. How could she, after so many disquieting events had happened that day? She had been offered a cure to her lifelong illness, found out the singer she had idolized was her godmother, discovered horrible secrets about her father and been almost forced to kill him, seen her godmother tear her own eyes out…and her father had died in her arms. The thought brought tears springing back to her eyes. "Dad…" Shilo choked into the darkness. She felt the hot salty water leaving trails from her eyes to her temples and heard the nighttime air swallow up her light sobs.
She turned onto her side and wrapped her arms around the only person left who mattered; her god-mom, Blind Mag. Shilo nestled her face against Mag's shoulder and wept herself to sleep.
A/N: I hope the Shilo Pinball scene didn't feel too rushed; I just didn't want to bore everyone who had seen the film with a rehash of what we all know happened.
Also, this story is definitely going to end up Graverobber/Shilo, but there might be other pairings too…we'll see what my muses think.
Oh, and by the way, Sweeney Todd is my main fandom, so if there are any Sweeney fans out there who liked this chapter and would like to read my let's-have-fewer-people-dead-at-the-end Sweeney fics, please check them out : )