Title: Si Vales Valeo
Ye Obligatory Disclaimer: Girl Genius is property of amazing Phil and Kaja Foglio, I'm just a huge fangirl who likes to play with their stuff.
Setting note: Volume 10, end of the Si Vales Valeo arc. The fanfic is set entirely in Agatha's, Gil's and Tarvek's minds, during the short time they're unconscious after Agatha drinks the water from the Dyne and redistributes the excess energy between the three of them.
A couple of warnings:
- I am not a native English speaker, so there might be glitches and mistakes that you're welcome to point out.
- This is an experiment at playing with canon while staying in it as much as possible. As such, it's more of a "slice of life" than a story, and I understand this might not be everybody's cup of tea.
- Given the peculiar nature of this fic, the point of view is going to be a little odd, for reasons that will be clear in context. It's sort of an experiment, but I hope it'll still be clear enough to be followed and enjoyed. Basically, since the Si Vales Valeo procedure is based on establishing a link between the participants, I wondered what effect this could have on their minds.
- Rated T for suggestive content and OT3 overtones.
If you die, then… all the rest… the rest is pointless.
So that will not happen.
When she closed the circuit that bound them together, Agatha barely heard the deafening echo of her own words blending with Gil and Tarvek's scream, as if the three of them had only one voice, before the blinding, roaring explosion devoured everything, ripping reality off its borders.
The rest is pointless.
So that will not happen.
A wave of scorching, piercing pain ran through her like an electrical shock, and Agatha screamed, or at least she thought she did because she couldn't hear her voice or even feel her mouth or her breath or her skin anymore, as if pain were the only sense she had left. As if her whole body, her every single cell, as if her own blood were breaking in half.
And then she broke, and she couldn't even feel the pain anymore. Only a vague sense of movement and surrender remained, as if she were slowly sinking, melting, fading away into nothingness. Like a dry leaf into the fire.
The rest is pointless.
The words came back to her, like a faded, muffled memory, but she couldn't understand their meaning anymore. She couldn't understand the fleeting sense of fear that seemed to accompany them, like the shadow of an old nightmare.
So that will not happen.
The shapeless, distant echo returned with a different taste, fiery like courage and sour like pain at the same time, as if their meaning should've been important somehow, but she still couldn't understand why. Because nothing really made sense or mattered now, in that safe, floating oblivion. Not even her own thoughts. Not even her – because, after all, who was she, and why should that have mattered anyway? And was she even real, or had she already melted away in the light, in that foggy labirynth?
New, faint whispers caressed her thoughts like wind in the rain, tracing paths of names that maybe were real, and maybe not.
But who was she?
Through her oblivion, tattered threads of moments and sensations slid through her like grains of sand. The wet weight of tears, the pressure of glasses she wasn't yet used to on her nose. The sharp, frustrating pain of her hair being pulled and cruel, childish singsongs. The endless torture of afternoons at the window waiting for someone that never came back. The numbing, pulsing bite of migraine. Gathering knees to her chest and silence. Hiding in the strong arms of that woman with mismatched eyes that was not her mother, and of the mute man that was not her father, and yet both meaning so much more to her than her real parents.
She was Agatha Clay, and she couldn't make it on her own. She was Agatha Clay, and she had to rest and not get upset. She was Agatha Clay, and her uncle would've never come back because, after all, what reason would've he had to? She was Agatha Clay, and in her mind everything was clear, so clear and close and amazing that she could almost touch it, but every time the stab of migraine shattered the clarity and everything crumbled to pieces in her hands. She was Agatha Clay, and she was too stupid to make it on her own. Too stupid to be listened to. To have friends. To not be alone.
Or maybe not. Different echoes and smells caressed her now, burnt oil, chemicals and new books. Cold floor under bare feet, and skinned knees, but after every trip or fall simply getting back up, and running harder, and then tripping always less often. There was the smell of fear, and curling up into a ball into a corner and trying to disappear, to escape, to just stop being. But there were also laughs, and hopes, and running like hell, and liquorice rolls stolen from the kitchen and shared. And there was a kid with red hair and glasses. And a man, big and powerful and frightening and amazing at the same time, just like the airships he commanded.
She was Gilgamesh Holzfaller. No, Gilgamesh Wulfenbach, because that was his name, because that man was his father and now nothing would ever be the same. She was Gilgamesh Wulfenbach and the only way he had to survive, to keep the secret, was betraying the only friend he had. She was Gilgamesh Wulfenbach and this was all for the better, and he was alone again, and if being alone and keeping secrets was the only way to survive, then he'd build his own friend with his hands, one who would never leave or betray.
Or maybe not, not even this was really enough, really made sense. The weight of glasses on the nose came back, but the smell was different, like ink and boot polish and new clothes. Stern eyes glaring from paintings, and tapestries, and fairytales, and a tall, smiling girl with red hair showing how not to button shoes together. Learning how to walk and keep the chin up and how to smile and how to choose words, because words mattered when playing a part. But also learning how to run, how to fall and get back up, and how to laugh, and stain fingers with liquorice, because playing a part sometimes wasn't really important. A reckless, always bare-footed kid with chestnut hair. And the round, heavy shades of the airships fading far away between the clouds.
She was Tarvek Sturmvoraus, and they'd sent him away. She was Tarvek Sturmvoraus, and the only friend he had, the only one with whom he didn't have to wear a mask had betrayed him and sent him away. She was Tarvek Sturmvoraus and he was going back home, back to everything he hated, and he was alone again, and if being alone and wearing masks was the only way to survive, then he'd build a mask so perfect that noone would be able to reach inside and hurt and betray.
No, this wasn't right either, this didn't quite fit.
The sands of new times and places whirled quickly now, and she was Agatha Clay again. She was Agatha Clay, and she hadn't given up yet. She was Agatha Clay, and if she was really too stupid to be listened to, to do anything right, then every day she'd work harder and swallow the tears, and the pain and frustration and the harsh glares full of contempt. And maybe doctor Beetle would've let her stay.
And now she was Gilgamesh Wulfenbach, and being alone and keeping secrets had become so natural to him that he wasn't sure he could even talk to people anymore. She was Gilgamesh Wulfenbach, and no matter how many tests he passed, nothing would ever be enough to his father. She was Gilgamesh Wulfenbach, and at least he had the dreamy chorus girl to take care of. But being needed wasn't the same as not being alone.
And now she was Tarvek Sturmvoraus, and had become so good at being alone and playing a part that not even his family knew who he was. She was Tarvek Sturmvoraus, and his sister was dying and it was all his father's fault, his sister was dying and nothing he could do, not even building a new body for her was really helping. She was Tarvek Sturmvoraus, and his sister was dead, but the body he'd built for her was still alive and still talked with her voice and still remembered. Like a ghost to haunt him.
She was Agatha Clay, and her locket had been stolen, and doctor Beetle was dead, and the Baron had taken her away on Castle Wulfenbach and her whole life had been turned inside out. She was Agatha Clay and the migraines were gone, and when she went flying with Gilgamesh and they repaired the engine together she had felt alive like never before. She was Agatha Clay and her ideas had really worked, and maybe she was not that stupid. Maybe she was a spark. Maybe she didn't even have to be alone. And at the same time she was Gilgamesh, and having Agatha by his side had felt like finally being whole, like being alone wasn't the only way anymore. And then she was Agatha Clay and she'd never forget how good Gil's lips had tasted on hers, and the warm, safe hold of his arms around her, even if she couldn't trust him, even if she couldn't stay. And she was Gilgamesh, and when Agatha had grabbed him and kissed him he'd never want to let her go, never want to risk of losing her now that he'd found her.
And suddenly she was Agatha Heterodyne, and her parents were dead, and the only way she had to survive was faking her own death, no matter how much it hurt to leave that ring behind, no matter how much she wanted to just run to him when Gil came looking for her. And she was Gilgamesh, and he'd have given anything to just see Agatha again, but she was dead, dead, dead, he could save her parents but couldn't find her before the wastelands got to her – and now he was alone again, and it was all over before it even began, no matter how it could have been.
She was Agatha Heterodyne again, and maybe she could be just Agatha, she could start anew and be free and not really alone. She was Agatha, and every night Lars kissed her on stage and had no idea how much this meant to her, but suddenly she was in Sturmhalten, and she was Agatha Heterodyne more than ever, and not even her own mind was hers anymore. And she was Gilgamesh, and Agatha was still alive and he had to find a way to help her somehow. And she was Tarvek, and his father was dead and the Other had come back, and all he could do was playing the loyal servant part until the ghost doll he called sister came back with reinforcements to help him kill her. And she was Agatha again, and the Other was in her head, and Tarvek's arms around her and his voice brushing her neck felt so warm and safe and so right, but could she trust him? And she was Tarvek, and Agatha was still alive and he had to find a way to save her somehow, but he couldn't let her surrender to the Baron. She was Tarvek, and he'd dropped his mask just when the Other was listening, and now the only hope he had to save Agatha rested in something worse than a deal with the devil, and he had to betray her no matter how much it hurt, no matter how much he just wanted to hold her in his arms and breathe in the scent of her hair, and not be alone anymore. She was Tarvek, and Agatha would never trust him again, ever, and it didn't really matter that he'd betrayed her to try and save them both, because nothing would ever change the fact that she had trusted him and he'd betrayed her – and now he'd lost her for good. And she was Agatha once more, and she was terrified and hurt and betrayed and mad with the pain and the fury, and the music inside of her and the golden trilobite around her neck were her only links left to sanity. And Lars was dead, dead, dead. Because of her.
The following instants and images spun wildly around and through her like a whirlwind of cutting sand. She was Agatha, finding a way into Castle Heterodyne. She was Gilgamesh, protecting his father and calling down the lightning to defend Mechanicsburg. She was Tarvek, escaping from the hospital and hiding in the castle. She was Agatha and she was Gilgamesh, once again facing each other, working together, never wanting to lose each other again. And she was Tarvek, and even through his fever all he wanted was to tell Agatha he was sorry. And now the same fever burned in all three of them, and the castle was dead, and all three of them were dying and everything melted down into a blinding, scorching explosion.
If you die, then… all the rest… the rest is pointless.
The words came back to her once more, but this time she understood what they meant.
So that will not happen.
And she was back right where she started, in that shapeless world where nothing felt real, but this time she knew she was real. She knew who she was.
She was Agatha Heterodyne. But at the same time, she was Gilgamesh Wulfenbach and she was Tarvek Sturmvoraus. She was one, and yet she was three, as if they were breathing in the same skin, their hearts pumping the same blood. Their minds dreaming the same dream.
"Where are we?" she said, or at least she thought she did, because she couldn't really hear her own voice.
As an answer to her words, she felt a wave of soothing warmth rise and surround her, like two pairs of strong arms cradling her, and soft hair brushing her neck. She felt herself smiling, and wanting to return the embrace, she found warm skin under her fingers, and two different yet familiar hands, Gil's strong and calloused, Tarvek's nimble and graceful, laced with hers – even if she didn't really know where her hands were, or where her body began and the other two ended. She had never felt before that aching perfection of just skin to skin, body to body, heartbeats and breathings blending together, as if they couldn't be any closer than this without melting. A distant part of her mind wondered why she wasn't scared or embarassed or simply dying of shame at that intimacy, but the rest of her couldn't care less, and wondered instead why she should feel anything less than the soothing bliss that filled her at the moment. Wherever they were, whatever that feeling was, they were together and this was all that mattered. And it felt perfect.
"In the Si Vales Valeo itself, I think… I remember reading about this," Gil said, and Agatha felt his breath caressing her neck, wherever her neck was. Now that he'd mentioned it, she remembered as well. She remembered being Gilgamesh, and being Tarvek, and reading about it.
"The consciousness exchange hypothesis… but none has ever proved it before," Tarvek said, and Agatha felt his hair brushing her shoulder. At his words she felt a sour taste melting in her throat… it wasn't really surprising. Si Vales Valeo subjects often went insane, and even those who didn't, usually had only vague memories of the process itself.
"Probably because nobody could," she said. "We're not going to remember much after we wake up… are we?"
Neither man answered her with words, but around her, in that embrace that didn't really exist, and yet was more precious to her than reality itself, she felt them both hold her tighter. She swallowed, her heart pounding loud with theirs, her fingers now traveling through the long, soft locks of Tarvek's hair, and at the same time up and down Gil's back, learning the lines and shapes of his muscles that so many times before she had watched and admired, but never touched, not that way at least. She was Agatha, and yet she was Gilgamesh and Tarvek at the same time, feeling the warmth and shivers her own touch was giving them like the sensations seeped through their skin, feeling the same yearning that flowed through her as both returned her caresses, Tarvek's hands running through her hair and down to the small of her back, Gil's tracing circles along her waist and belly. She was Agatha, and she was Gilgamesh and she was Tarvek, and it was just the three of them and what they felt. There was no room for fear, mistrust, rivalry and games, in that world where all of their masks and secrets were revealed and barriers meaningless, where the distinction between memories, sensation, imagination and desire had melted away. There was no way they could ever be closer than this, no way they could trust one other so completely, so naturally, so perfectly in the real world. And it was all going to become just a dream they wouldn't even remember.
"I don't want to lose this," she whispered, a sharp stab of pain in her chest barely thawed by the warmth of their embrace. "This feeling… like being whole for the first time, like being… home. I don't want to forget it… I don't want to be alone anymore."
"You won't be, Agatha," Gil said. "You saved us… all three of us. You still have us… we still have each other, even if we forget."
Agatha shivered at Gil's voice caressing her ear, and the light touch of his fingers on her face. God, she wanted to kiss him, right then and right away, with Tarvek's hair flowing like silk between her fingers and his hands dancing up and down her back. She wanted to kiss them both, and feeling the same desire running through their blood as well as her own felt so desperately, maddeningly beautiful that it hurt. She had no hesitations as she felt Gil's lips take hers in a deep, passionate kiss, she just sunk her fingers in the back of his neck and let him in so they could taste each other, and at the same time she felt Tarvek's lips plant soft kisses up along her neck, all of her body now tingling as if it were going to burst into flames. Gil's lips left hers, moving to her chin and down her neck, and Tarvek's took their place right away as she muffled an approving moan. She had wondered before what kissing Tarvek would be like, but nothing she had imagined could compare to this. He tasted sweeter than Gil, his touch felt more delicate and tentative, almost tantalizing, but not less loving and hungry for her.
"You will never be alone, Agatha," Tarvek whispered on her lips. "You have us… you are loved. Don't you ever forget it."
That word brought a smile to her lips, and continued to ring with her even as details started to blur and sensations became more distant and confused. They were going back to the real world, about to wake up in their bodies somewhere under Castle Heterodyne, and go back to their masks and barriers and all of their fears – but now she was ready, she could face this. Because even if that wonderful dream, that feeling of completeness would be gone, now she knew that word would've stayed with her. Because, somehow, she'd known all along. She was not alone. She had them. She was loved – and she loved.
"Let's go back home now," she whispered, and she felt two pairs of lips brush her cheeks in a last kiss. The last thing she thought before everything faded away, was how three simple, little words could mean so much.
Si Vales Valeo.
If you are well, I am well.