The Great Scientist Herbert West
Summary: Various ficlets stitched together to form one big fanfic revolving around Herbert, his past, his present, and his future.
Daniel Cain had never seen Herbert West take more pleasure, more care, and more blind enthusiasm for something in his life. He thought the sight odd, as he stood there on the stair to the basement, gazing down at the little man he shared his company with.
Herbert was hunched over her again working quietly on the delicate hand of their creation. Her face was still, and Dan knew it would only be a matter of time before they would attempt to breath life into her. This had become a regular scene, but to Dan it remained a strange one.
Herbert looked so different while he worked on her. His usually tense features softened, and his hands worked slowly, cautiously as he seemingly caressed her hand with his instruments. It was an almost loving gesture, one that disturbed Dan to no end.
Dan quietly stared, knowing that Herbert was too focused on his work to detect Dan's silent entrance of their workspace.
"He's going to love you, y'know." Herbert said with a smile, as he attached and stitched various tendons together.
Daniel stood deadly still. Herbert wasn't talking to him...he was talking to her. This was a behavior Dan didn't like. An act of the little man's that made his skin crawl more than any other.
"He'll stop bringing them over when he's got you, he will." Herbert spoke just above a whisper, as he stared down at her face for a long moment.
"The house will be much more peaceful without those women around. No more disturbances or intrusions. It'll just be us three. Just us." he hummed pleasantly.
The other backed up a step, realizing that Herbert was talking about him. He knew that the petit man didn't like his habit of brining women over, but Dan had figured that Herbert didn't like anybody, and no matter who he brought home wouldn't make a difference.
"He'll adore you," Herbert continued, still clueless to Dan's presence.
His assistant watched closely as Herbert's hand went from her arm to her cheek, where he caressed it softly with half-lidded eyes behind his thick black frames. "Almost as much as I do."
Dan took another step back, frightened, before his brain started processing the situation.
What was frightening about this? Other than the fact that there were dead body parts stitched together to make a woman sitting harmlessly on the table.
It was Herbert's action that frightened him. Hebert for a moment acted sincere, dare he say human.
He watched the quiet smile on West's face as he went back to working. He'd never seen the other man look so content. Dan couldn't help the chuckle that rose in his throat as Herbert beamed down at their girl on the table.
Herbert's ears perked at the sound and his head snapped up, features tense and alert again.
"Oh, hello Dan." he said sternly. "H-How long have you been standing there?"
Dan chucked again at the obvious nervousness in West's voice.
"Long enough." Dan continued down the stairs and over the table, trying not to laugh at the light blush that graced Hebert's pale cheeks.
"L-long enough to what exactly?" Herbert was trying so hard to appear his normal, stern self. It was an unsuccessful effort.
Dan pushed a strand of hair out of corpse's face, with a smile. "Long enough to see you hitting on my girl." He replied with a laugh.
"I most certainly was not-!"
"Oh give it up Herbert I saw you. I've never seen you smile so big in all your life!" Dan cut him off before he could finish.
"Well...She is my creation...she's beautiful, far superior to any other women on this earth." Herbert struggled to explain.
Dan laughed at the picture. The Great Herbert West shuffling around nervously like a teenage boy caught peeking at his father's dirty magazines.
"I thought she was our creation?" Dan teased.
Hebert just looked awkwardly at the corner trying to maintain his dignity.
"Herbert had you ever been attracted to anybody? Ever?" Dan went on teasing him. "Have you ever loved anyone, or even anything in your life?"
All he got was silence at his answer.
"Oh, I see! Though it make's sense the first woman you've ever been smitten with would be, y'know dead." he went on.
"Some of us don't require a woman in our bed every night of the week to function." Herbert spat back, taking off his lab coat and throwing it at Dan before shoving passed him and stomping up to his room.
"Did I hit a nerve?" Dan called after him, still laughing.
The only sound that met his ears was that of West's door slamming.
Dan sighed and stared down at their girl, smiling half-heartedly. She was a beautiful creation, with Meg's heart as the masterpiece. But she wasn't alive, albeit yet, but right now she was as dead as the other corpses in the room.
He had another girl, a live girl who loved him right now. And at the moment that was what he should focus on.
Dan didn't see much of Herbert for the rest of the night. In fact, it wasn't until the next morning that the little man emerged from his room for work. His features were stone cold. His lips were set in a thin line, and his eyes showed an obvious lack of sleep.
"Herbert are you okay?" he asked, a little shaken at sight of his partner's sunken eyes.
Herbert glared at him with a curt nod, before pouring himself a cup of coffee to go as they set off for work.
Dan was worried. Had he struck a nerve? Yes. But had he struck one that should have been left alone?
He didn't see West again until their shift was over, and they were on their way home. Herbert immediately made a move to go to his room, but Dan caught his shoulder.
"Hey Herbert? Can we talk?" he asked. Herbert shoved his arm off.
"No. I've got work to do."
Dan caught his sleeve again. "I'm not really giving you a choice." he said again. "Listen, I'm really sorry about yesterday, I didn't mean to upset you."
"You seemed to be having a lot of fun doing something you hadn't intended to be doing." Herbert snapped back.
"I'm sorry! I was just messing around; I didn't think I'd bring up any bad blood...Can we talk about it? Please?"
Herbert sighed, before nodding silently. Dan followed the man to his room. It was a place Dan rarely ventured to go. It was a modest space, which contained only a desk, a bed, and a closet.
Few images adorned the wall, most of which were anatomical drawings or notes hastily tacked on whatever open space was in arms length of the desk chair. Beside the bed was a small nightstand, which Herbert approached warily.
Dan sat on the bed, as Herbert stood by the desk gazing at the top drawer of the nightstand with an expression Dan could only characterize as dread.
"I should explain...shouldn't I?" Herbert asked quietly, dropping in the desk chair.
"Herbert, if you don't feel comfortable explaining it I won't push you too..."
"Yes you will." he replied. "You'll bother me and bother me until I tell you, in your own stupid way. I know you Dan, we live together you know."
Dan went silent. He watched as Herbert's usually pin straight posture slouched, and he loosened his tied and tossed his lab coat in the corner.
"I have never been attracted to an individual woman, per say...Not in the way that you have been to Francesca." He admitted drearily. "That manner of attraction bores me, disgusts me even. No, women create life, women are beautiful creatures. They aren't cattle for your sexual fun. That's what's so beautiful about our girl. Our girl has the best of it all."
"You've never so much as had a crush on a girl? Really?"
Herbert shook his head. "No, not really."
"You've never been kissed?"
Herbert shook his head. "It's a behavior I've never experienced."
"How have you gotten by all this time not feeling attracted to anything?"
The smaller just shrugged.
"Seriously Herbert, were you ever a teenager?" Dan asked.
Herbert nodded, before pulling out a book from a drawer and handing it to Dan. It was a yearbook. A highschool yearbook. "If I remember correctly I'm on page ninety-two."
Dan flicked to said page, and sure enough in the lower left hand corner was the name Herbert West, with an image of a much younger doctor.
The first thing Dan noticed was how small he was. He was significantly smaller than the other youths on the page. He had his usual lack of expression, and Dan couldn't help but think it odd how little the man had changed in his adulthood.
His glasses looked too large for his small face, and his eyes looked cold underneath them as they silently glared at the unseen photographer taking cheap school pictures.
On the adjacent page something caught his eye. "Herbert who is this? He looks just like you!"
Dan read the name quietly to himself, before repeating it out loud. "Crawford...Tillinghast? Are you related?"
Dan looked over and saw that Herbert had stiffened intensely. "We are cousins."
"How come you never talk about him? Or any of your family for that matter?" he asked curiously, as he saw Herbert's eyes shift uncomfortably.
"We don't get along." he said vaguely.
"Why not? He looks nice enough."
The image of Crawford Tillinghast portrayed a smiling youth, with bright eyes who wore a large heavy sweater over a collared shirt. Dan looked over at his partner, worried when he saw that Herbert's expression.
It was one of poorly masked emotion. One that Dan knew meant that something must've been a lot more wrong than Herbert would let on.
"Herbert?" he asked.
The younger leaned over to the bedside table, pulling open the drawer to reveal a picture in an old frame. "This is my family, Dan." he said quietly, before sitting down beside the other man on the bed, holding the picture for him to see.
In the photo there was a woman who happily held the hand of a young boy. Beside them was a man, who wore an old dusty jacket and a pair of jeans. He looked tired, but was smiling none the less. The woman too, looked tired...no, not tired. She looked sickly. The only healthy looking one was the young boy.
He was smiling happily, his eyes staring adoringly at the two adults. He looked at Herbert, then back at the photo.
"Herbert...is that you?" he asked almost disbelieving.
"No. It's Crawford." he said in a hollow tone. "I don't have any pictures of me. I don't think they ever took any. This is the only family photo we had."
"Why aren't you in it? Who are those people?"
Herbert looked at the photo as if it were the ghosts of those people themselves.
"This is my mother." he said gesturing to the sick woman, "And my father."
Dan looked at Crawford, then at Herbert's parents. There was so much compassion in their eyes, so much love. They all looked so happy, but sad at the same time. Like they knew something was coming.
"How old would you have been here anyway?"
"I was six." Herbert answered. "This was just before mother died, and just after father lost his job."
"Herbert...why aren't you in this picture?" Dan asked again, unsettled by the lack of emotion in Herbert's voice.
A long pause fell over them.
"...I wasn't considered to be a member of the family." Herbert finally said. "So I was never allowed in family pictures."
Dan looked at Herbert, whose gaze was fixed on the photo like a moth to flame. Behind thick frames Dan could see that his eyes looked lost.
"Herbert..." Dan said quietly, placing a hand on Herbert's own in a comforting gesture. "Why?"
It was a good five minutes before Herbert spoke.
"I was an unwelcome edition to an already content home." he finally said. "My aunt had passed, so my mother and father had raised Crawford like their own," Herbert began, never really looking at Dan, eyes fixed on the faces of the photograph.
"My family was poor, but got by well enough when it was just Crawford and my parents. However when my mother found out she was pregnant with me, they knew that a fourth mouth to feed would be too much for my father's salary to handle."
Herbert went silent for a few moments, as if he was trying to collect thoughts that had been scattered for many years.
"My mother had a complicated pregnancy, and she couldn't afford an abortion. When I was born she almost died, and her body was never the same after that. She became sick very easily, she was weak. She could no longer work. For this, she hated me..." Herbert explained.
The small man's breathing became uneven as he bit his lip. There were no tears, but the intensity was there.
"Dan, my own mother hated me..." he said finally looking at Dan.
"I had ruined her perfect little family. My father's salary couldn't support us. When I was four we lost our home, we lived motel to motel for a long time. The strangest thing is that my father didn't hate me, no, he didn't like me, but he didn't hate me like my mother did. He didn't start hating me until my mother died." Herbert went on.
"What about Crawford? How did he act towards you?" Dan asked cautiously.
"Crawford...Crawford was the only one who had been kind to me as a child. He would share his dinner with me, play with me, but only when my parent's weren't around. When they were around they would yell at him for talking with me. He was the only one there for me when mother died."
"Herbert..." Dan was at a loss for words. "Your mother...what was she like?" he asked quietly.
"She was beautiful. She had golden hair, just like our girl, Dan. When she died I was the only one with her. Crawford was at school, and I was at her side. She was so angry at me. She yelled at me until she couldn't yell anymore. Then it was quiet. I sat at her bedside and talked to her. She was too tired to argue, to yell at me. So for the first time in my life I talked to my mother."
Herbert quietly set the photo on the bedside. "I don't want to talk about this anymore." he said firmly, getting up and walking around the room trying to fix his breathing, to calm his fraying nerves.
"I need the reagent." he said suddenly, almost storming out of the room before Dan could grab his collar and yank him back.
"No Herbert. You've been doing so well, you don' t need to rely on it anymore." he said looking directly into West's distraught eyes.
"Please Dan, I need it!" he yelled back struggling in the other mans grip.
"No Herbert. You don't!" he shouted. Herbert struggled for a few minutes before finally giving up, and a sound Dan never thought was possible filled the room.
Herbert West was crying. He cried against Dan's chest as the stronger man held him still in disbelief.
Gradually they made it to the bed, and Dan sat Herbert down beside him again as he quietly sobbed, his thin form shaking slightly.
Dan felt bad for pushing West to tell him something that was so upsetting, but in a way Dan had realized that Herbert West felt.
For the first time Dan had seen Hebert West show genuine emotion. Hebert West cared for people. He had a family. He didn't just crawl out of the depths of the earth, he was a person.
And now it all made sense to Dan. Hebert's motives, his lack of emotion, his disposition. He wasn't born a seemingly soulless person obsessed with the dead, no, he became one.
A silence fell again.
This time it was Herbert that broke it.
"Dan..." he said quietly. "Dan don't ever leave me." he said in a weak voice.
The taller doctor didn't really know what to think about the request, so he simply nodded, gently stroking West's hair.
"Okay Herbert." he agreed.
"Dan...Dan do you hate me?" he asked still shaking slightly. "Sometimes I think you do."
Daniel Cain knew what he'd done. He'd opened the floodgates. He'd finally gotten Herbert to talk, and he knew that nothing would come to show of it if Herbert stopped when he wasn't ready to.
"No Herbert, I don't hate you. Sometimes you just frustrate me." he admitted.
"I'm sorry, Dan." Herbert apologized.
"I forgive you." he replied in a soothing tone. "Herbert...what did you tell your mother when she was dying?"
Herbert tensed again, his eyes darting from Dan to the floor as he tapped his foot anxiously. "I told her everything. I told her my feelings, my dreams, how much I adored her. I told her how Crawford and I would play, how we would share everything. I told her I loved her. But then..."
"...then what?" Dan pressed lightly, taking Herbert's in his own and giving it a supportive squeeze.
"...I asked her why she hated me. Deep down I think I always knew, but when you're six you don't understand it. I just wanted to hear it from her. Why she hated me..."
"What did she say?"
"Nothing." Herbert answered. "She died almost twenty minutes after I asked. I hung on her every breath hoping it would be an answer. One didn't come."
Dan noticed that Hebert's tears had stopped, but he was still visibly upset no matter how hard he was trying to hide it.
"Father came home after about an hour passed. He took her to the hospital, and left an inconsolable Crawford with me. I was unsympathetic to him. He had her attention his whole life, I'd only had it when she was dying with nobody else to distract her."
"So what did you do?"
"Nothing. I didn't speak, or cry, or even move. Father came home, and yelled at me. Crawford got angry and yelled at me...and I just sat there and took it. That would be how it was for the next twelve years of my life. Crawford would always apologize afterward, plead for my forgiveness, for my affection like he so endlessly possessed when we were children."
Dan noted the cold tone that Herbert had taken on.
"I didn't give it to him. I didn't pay attention to anyone. If they wanted me to not exist I made it a point to not exist. When I was eighteen I moved out, went to college on a full scholarship and ended up studying under Dr. Gruber."
"Do you ever hear from them?" Dan asked curiously.
"Crawford lives just outside of town, studying physics with some Pretorious fellow." Herbert admitted. "Father sends me letters sometimes. Most of them ask about Crawford though."
"Have you seen anyone recently?"
"Just Crawford. He visits sometimes."
"When you aren't around." Herbert answered pointing out the obvious. "Dan? Why do you suddenly want to know this?"
"I just wanted to know if you'd ever had any relationships, you were the one who went on to tell the life story of Dr. Herbert West." Dan pointed out lightly. "You just needed to tell somebody, didn't you Herbert? Was that it?"
"You poke around too much." Herbert growled.
Dan simply smiled and squeezed Herbert's hand. The smaller man snatched it away before getting up and standing up straighter than Dan had seen in a long time.
"I'm going to go work on our girl. You can sit up here and try to dissect someone else's past or you can come and help me." he said fixing his glasses with a determined gaze before he left the room.
Dan only smiled and followed him.
Please R&R! :D