Right, I've been meaning to write a Sleepy Hollow fic for ages but have only just got round to it. I loved the film, just like all Tim Burton films, and was really interested in Lady Van Tassel because she's quite an important character that is hardly ever touched on. I guess my love of Johnny Depp and Miranda Richardson sort of inspired this story. No serious warnings, I don't like writing graphic detail.
P.S. I love reviews! Who doesn't, right?
- Clara x
DISCLAIMER: I don't own Sleepy Hollow. This fan fiction is based on the Tim Burton film. I am making no profits from this. Amen.
Just Us And The Moonlight
He decided not to take the candle.
It was almost burnt out and the flickering light reflecting off the highly polished wood panels that lined the corridor would just attract attention to him. So he straightened his shirt, gave a curt nod of his head to no one in particular and left his bedroom as silently as possible.
The house was old and it seemed that almost every floorboard creaked when stood on. Night had fallen, silvery moonlight slicing through the otherwise pitch-darkness, cutting him a path towards his destination. He had been relying on the moon to light his way when he decided against carrying a candle with him, and by the quiet and placid atmosphere outside, it appeared that there would be no more murders tonight. He hoped the horseman would stay locked in his cold grave. He hoped that whoever was controlling it had allowed the small village a night of rest.
He suppressed a shudder that had nothing to do with the icy chill as a single door at the end of the hallway emerged from the blanketing darkness. It stood where it always had, innocently placed in the far corner of the house. It was just a door. But to him, it was a mysterious gateway into what he knew very well but still felt the need to discover. It was a step that he was willing to take, even if it was wrong. It was an obstacle that he told himself he could overcome without a moment's thought.
He felt extremely on edge. The atmosphere was unnerving and eerie. He glanced out of a mullioned window as he passed it and looked down upon the village of Sleepy Hollow. The whole settlement had a strange feel to it. Maybe it was the constant cover of grey cloud, bleak and monotonous, or maybe it was the mist that hung in the cold air and swamped the village day and night. Maybe it was the fact that there was a serial killer galloping around in the Western Woods, who could strike again at any moment. It was probably a combination of all these factors which made him long for the day he would return home to New York.
His thoughts had drifted so far he hadn't realised that he had halted in front of the door. Small and unextraordinary though it was, he still felt something radiating from the door in waves, like heat, but he was sure he was imagining it. So he stood, and had a mental debate with himself until he gritted his teeth and knocked on the door softly, as to not wake anyone up.
"Come in, Constable." came the soft, velvety reply.
He pressed his lips together and told himself there was no backing out now. So he turned the door knob and pushed open the door.
On entering the room, he noticed a change in light. The large window was open and a candle flickered on the bedside table. It was a guest room in the Van Tassel house. Rarely used, according to Katrina. There was as sizable four poster bed, a large wardrobe, a small fireplace with an elaborate mirror hanging over it, a bookshelf stood solemnly in one corner and an armchair was pushed up against one wall. He had seen grander, but it was more so than the room he had insisted he take.
The room, however, was irrelevant. It was an unsurprisingly ordinary room, but that was not why he was standing in it.
He was standing there because of the woman at the window.
She hadn't turned away from the open window to acknowledge his presence at all. In fact, if she hadn't spoken moments earlier, he would have assumed he had entered unnoticed. He was taken aback by how different she looked at night, having only seen her in fine dresses, her hair tied back elaborately and every aspect of her appearance screaming "lady of the house". She stood then in a sheer satin nightgown, coloured like pearls, laced with ribbons across her chest. The sleeves were cut off at her elbow and the skirt stopped at her ankles. Apart from being rather form fitting, it was comparatively plain to her usual attire.
Her hair had been released from its restraints and allowed to cascade freely down her back and over her shoulders. It stopped just below her ribcage and was thick and shining. He had been silently fascinated with her hair when he had first seen her; how it could be such a light blonde it was almost white. He thought there couldn't possibly be a word to describe that colour, but would openly stare at it, tying to imprint the exact shade into his brain, if it was polite. The window was open but she showed no sign of cold and no breeze stirred her hair, however the watery light did cause it to almost glow, turning it from ghostly pale blonde to silver, as if it had been spun from starlight.
Ichabod was glad that she didn't turn to face him straight away so he could just drink in the sight before him. Her delicate features were bathed in moonlight which made her cerulean eyes glitter and her skin appear flawless and porcelain. Shadows were cast in the hollows of her cheeks, making her high cheekbones appear even more prominent and adding to the regal and enchanting structure of her face. She had a small nose and perfectly formed pale lips and everything from her neck, to her figure, to her fingers were slender and elegant. Never had Ichabod been struck with such a religious feeling but swathed in moonlight, glorious hair free and clothed in silvery satin, she looked blissfully angelic, and so pure and delicate that he considered leaving for fear of breaking the image.
Before Katrina had told him that the current Lady Van Tassel was in fact her step mother, Ichabod had had no trouble in believing her to be Katrina's biological mother. They shared the same snow white skin and blue eyes and though Lady Van Tassel's was several shades lighter than her step daughter's both had pale blonde hair which he believed to be characteristic of Sleepy Hollow.
However, when he had looked closer, it was obvious that they didn't look much alike at all. Katrina was warmly beautiful, her eyes kind, her cheeks rosy at times, her hair ringleted softly and her features cherubic and typically pretty. She had the look of youth, and when she had taken off her blindfold and he had set eyes on her for the first time, he had been literally struck by her beauty. She was exactly the type of girl he admired; delicate, warm, quiet looks. Her step mother, however, was a different story. Her beauty was undoubtable, but icy and harsh, and yet elegant and effortless at the same time. She had the kind of face that you'd expect to come about through generations and centuries of selective breeding. Her demeanour, her face, her figure, every element of her outward appearance seemed to be that of an aristocratic nature. Ichabod believed that where Katrina was humble, and fit in perfectly with the little, isolated community, Lady Van Tassel belonged among the highest of status, with royalty. How this opinion had come about, he could not say, but he knew that he had always felt somewhat intimidated by Lady Van Tassel, and he suspected that her rather unearthly beauty had something to do with it.
He was roused from his reverie by said woman when she turned away from the window to face him. With half her face in shadow, half in moonlight, she looked to be in black and white, apart from her bright blue eyes, which then gave him a calculating look. For a few moments they just stood and stared at each other. Ichabod didn't seem to be able to tear his eyes away from her for fear of her disappearing back to heaven or what other magical realm she had materialised from. Her eyes bore into his with rather uncomfortable intensity. He felt as if she could see right through him, through all his barriers and lies and sins, and he felt bare under her scrutiny.
She glided over to him, as if floating on air, until she stood inches away from him. She narrowed her eyes, and tiled her head on one side slightly, considering him. He suppressed a shudder.
"I knew you would come." she all but whispered.
He didn't reply. He didn't feel the need to. He could ask why, but he already knew the answer. He could deny intending to come, but they both knew that was a lie. No, he decided to keep quiet.
He considered how he had got there in the first place. His investigations into the murders of Sleepy Hollow had got him nowhere. He had no idea who was doing it, or why, and it frustrated him to no end. He hated being clueless. To be ignorant was to be weak, and he refused to be weak any longer. The fact that he couldn't help the poor, terrified inhabitants of the town was infuriating. It was his job, he had been sent specifically, and he was completely helpless. Van Tassel had welcomed him into his home, supporting him where he could, and he had failed to come up with any leads...not to mention he was having a secret late-night meeting with Baltus' wife. Yes, he had betrayed Van Tassel's trust and generosity.
And yet he couldn't bring himself to care.
The stress had just been building and building. He was under so much pressure and it wasn't made any easier by the youngest Van Tassel. Katrina...with her soft eyes and kind smile...he had done everything he could to impress her. He felt a need to protect her, to win her over, to please her whenever possible. She was so sweet and humble, all of her personality laid bare before him, not secrets, no hidden corners, and that greatly appealed to him.
Ichabod had felt that this turmoil of emotions would tear him apart, or cause him to collapse in on himself. The stress, the frustration, the pressure, the need for recognition from Katrina...it was making it impossible for him to get anywhere. It seemed this feeling had not gone unnoticed; the Lady Van Tassel had noticed it too.
He had, as we have established, felt rather uncomfortable around her in the past. It struck him as odd that she, a woman of youth and beauty, was married to Baltus Van Tassel, a man old enough to be her father. He assumed, as he was sure many others had, that it was his money she desired, but she didn't seem interested in wealth or influence at all. She treated her husband with such care and compassion that Ichabod did believe she loved him, and that she had married him because of it. Katrina had told him that her father, after her mother had passed away, had married his wife's sick nurse soon after. It seemed strange to Ichabod that a man of honour and who deeply valued his family like Baltus would recover from his grief and marry again so soon. No one else seemed to question this though, maybe Baltus' lust for the current Lady Van Tassel had been evident, and accepted.
She had come to Ichabod one day and talked to him. She had said he needed to rest, to take his mind off things. He hadn't slept much due to the nightmares that plague his sleep. He discovered that Lady Van Tassel should not set him on edge, that she was a perfectly honourable and kind woman, even if there was a strange and slightly sinister aura about her. They had talked over dinner the next evening when Baltus was working and Katrina was out riding. He found her company pleasant, and felt a lot more relaxed around her. It was during these meetings that he had viewed her up close for the first time, and it was then that he realised he had never met any woman similar, in looks or manner. It both scared and excited him.
The next morning, when everyone else was still in bed, Lady Van Tassel had come into the drawing room where he was reading one of his books. She had said nothing, just leant down until she was level with him and pressed her lips softly against his. She pulled back before he had the chance to respond and told him to meet her in the guest bedroom that night. She said it was for his own good, that he needed to be relieved of the tension burrowing into him. She told him that Katrina was timid and inexperienced, and far too naive to help him, and she assured him not a word would be said, nothing would be acted upon afterwards.
Then she had left without so much as a word from him.
He had told himself he wouldn't go. It was wrong. She was a lady, a married lady, and Katrina's step-mother. And yet she had spoken about it so openly, so professionally, that he truly believed she only wanted to do it for him, so it may speed up his investigation. He scolded himself. Of course he wouldn't go, it's ridiculous. It was an open invitation, but she wouldn't hold it against him if he decided to uphold his honour. That had been when he had first glimpsed the edges of something dark and all together less innocent inside Lady Van Tassel, something he had suspected to be there from the beginning. He should have run as fast as he could.
And yet, here he was...
"Katrina?" That was all he said, but she seemed to understand.
She smirked. "Not a word."
He let out a shaky breath. If Katrina ever found out, he didn't know what he would do.
He stood perfectly still as Lady Van Tassel reached up and pushed him jacket off his shoulders. By this simple and comparatively innocent gesture, his mind started to spin again. Lust and frustration fought reason and conscience, but he knew which would win, so he figured he should just accept it. After all, he wouldn't have come if he was just going to run back out again. He looked her directly in the eyes, those beautiful, haunting eyes, and said nothing. He would not let her win, he would match her in every way he could.
He told himself it was simply what he needed, that it would be quick and would clear his head then he could go back to working on the case and courting Katrina, which had been the original plan all along. So he told himself his heart did not flutter, nor did butterflies erupt in his stomach when she kissed him, kissed him like no one had ever kissed him before. It was strange, she seemed so experienced for a respectable and quiet woman, who had only been married once, she seemed to commit adultery with ease, like it hardly bothered her at all. This thought did not linger for long, however.
Being as inexperienced as he was, he let her take the lead. Let her steer him towards the bed, he felt the air get thicker, the moon broke through the cloud and illuminated her from behind, that moment was when he let go of his doubt, that was when he surrendered.
She was slow and deliberate, gentle in caresses, passionate in kisses, giving him what he asked for, asking for nothing in return. It was like a strange, hazy dream, blurry around the edges, despite the fact that his whole person was on fire, his nerves alive, his heart pounding, sparks flying through his blood, he had never felt more alive. He wasn't sure when or how but he noticed a while later that she had skilfully divested both of them of their clothes. And then there it was again, that glimmer, that darkness in her icy eyes which made him shudder with a whole mixture of wonderful things. She stared down at him with lust and determination which made him consider whether she was all she appeared to be. Surely this could not be Baltus Van Tassel's respectable, humble and quiet second wife? At that moment, she looked more like a witch than an angel. A stunning, sensual and evil witch. But he couldn't bring himself to do anything.
His world seemed to shatter around him. Nothing existed but her, no Katrina, no horseman, no nothing, just her smell, and her hair, and her eyes, and her body. He gained confidence, he kissed her back with such ardour it shocked them both, he ran his fingers through her hair, it was like silk, he was almost afraid of tangling it, but it is rather hard to tangle moonlight. Her mouth absorbed every noise he made, luckily, but she seemed to have much more control than he, and hardly made a sound.
He saw both heaven and hell that night, dark and light, good and evil, an angel and a witch. It didn't matter, nothing did. He lost himself, his mind, his reason, his virginity. Something awoke inside of him, something he had never possessed before, something scary and incredible; she had created it, or rather woken it up. If one could fall into a chasm of shadows and soar to the stars, he would have sworn he didn't need the opportunity. If Katrina had walked in then, he would have turned her away without a second thought. He felt he was going to explode and implode and he saw it as his death and his birth. On reflection, it was strange how such a tidal wave of conflicting emotions could have been brought on by one woman in a satin nightgown. He cried out his ecstasy and tears filled his eyes as he rebuilt his mind and soothed his soul.
She had spoken the truth, it did help, and nothing else ensued, despite his unholy desires. She had told not a soul, but he changed towards her inevitably. He blushed when in close proximity to her, he was wary of her but held her in the highest respect and he would forever associate her beauty with dark desires and passion, as opposed to her step daughter's which he saw as innocence and naivety. She, however, was always perfectly calm and collected around him, and acted as if nothing had happened.
Which is why, as he held Katrina to him, having finally proved himself worthy and won her heart, and watched as Daredevil and its two passengers disappeared into the crimson depths of the Tree of the Dead, he could feel nothing but loss and regret, not over his actions, but over hers. He had been right from the beginning about her darker side, about her adultery skills, about her secret life. It had been her he had run to, when he should have been hunting her. "Such a waste of talent, knowledge and beauty, she could have had it all through any other way." That night came flooding back to him with such powerful intensity that he couldn't cope, and fainted onto the forest floor.
He dreamt of pale blonde silk, of satin and bed sheets. He dreamt of the cold night, of the flickering candle, of ice blue eyes, of the piercing moonlight. He dreamt of her, the queen in the tiny settlement, the empress of moonlight and thought maybe he had dreamed the whole affair.
He carried on with his life, the Hessian defeated, the town safe, his job done. He married Katrina and they settled down and started a family in New York. He was utterly, completely happy, trying to forget everything that happened in Sleepy Hollow. Katrina helped him through, Masbeth stayed with them too. Soon he had completely moved on, he was a different man, a happier one. He had forgotten...
But when moonlight comes, and he stands alone at the window, he swims in the memory.
Because the truth is, he never did forget, and he never will.