The… thing is huddled in a corner of the operating theatre when Henry bursts in.
After Victor wakes his friend from his second faint of the day, Henry can't even look at it. "What on earth possessed you to create that… that monstrosity?" the other student gasps.
"You would never understand," Victor shoots back, unable to tear his gaze away from the life he made. The thing is naked and trembling, staring at him with dark eyes filled with fear and longing, and Victor thinks back when he first met William the day his brother was born. If he can find it in himself to care for that red and raw infant after everything, surely he can do the same for this other newborn. "We cannot leave him here."
"We?" Henry protests.
"He has to be hidden. Protected." Victor stands and picks up the coat he had shed earlier, cautiously approaching the thing. It shrinks away and curls even further into itself as he moves closer, and he supposes he only has himself to blame for that. If he hadn't recoiled in horror when the thing first started to move, it might not fear him now.
When Victor gently lays the coat over it, the foul-looking thing flinches when the fabric makes contact with its tender skin. But when the garment doesn't cause any pain, it reaches out a shaking hand to touch a gold-inlaid button. Victor realizes it has no idea what a button is, or a coat, or anything at all. He will have to teach it everything.
Victor could walk away. Easily.
But what will people do when they see it? Even Henry, the only decent person he's met so far at university, doesn't look like he wants to help it. Others might hurt it, or kill the life Victor created. The thing – well, the man, the modern Lazarus – cannot survive without his maker.
He has to look after Lazarus himself, because no one else will.
Justine throws her meager belongings into an old carpetbag and leaves the only home she has ever known.
Even through her tears, she tries to think rationally as she walks through the woods towards the city of Geneva proper. She has enough money for a room at an inn, but she'll have to look for work immediately. Perhaps as a scullery maid like she was before William was born, or as a governess again, even if tutoring a child other than William will weigh on her heart–
But her thoughts are broken when she hears voices and blows. Justine hurries down the path and is soon greeted by men beating someone she can't quite see in the mass of striking legs and arms. "Stop it!" she cries as she runs forward.
"Mind your own business!" snarls one of the attackers, and she responds by swinging her carpetbag at his face.
He's the only one who quits clobbering the victim to turn to her, and she counts that as something as he lunges for her. When he knocks her to the ground, she knees him between the legs and scrambles back to her feet to face the others.
"I said to stop!"
"Shut up, will you?" another man says, knocking the former maid to the dirt again. He holds her by the wrists, using his full weight to pin her down, and then he reaches for her skirts-
But then she hears a roar, and as the thug is pulled off her, Justine finally gets a good look at the object of the initial attack. He's hideous, but she doesn't care as the scarred man goes after their attackers. And by the time the brutes are running through the trees, they are downright fortunate to still be alive.
And then the man collapses.
She rushes to his side, turning red at his nakedness, but she decides to focus on his injuries. He's battered and bruised, blood running from his nose, and he flinches when she puts a light hand on his shoulder. But then he blinks, as if he recognizes her, and staggers upright. It is her turn to stare as he gives what looks like a painful but still elegant bow. One that looks just like the one she had taught William, in fact. He stares at her until she stands and curtsies in return, wondering why on earth he's insisting on such formality.
"You need to see a doctor," she says as he sways on his feet. He looks up when she speaks, but she doesn’t think he understands what she's actually saying. "Docteaur," she tries in French, but when his expression does not change, she calls on every memory she has of the languages she had been teaching William. She attempts English, Italian, and German, but the man doesn't react to any of them.
He does, however, go pale and fall to his knees. She catches him as he crumbles and tries to help him lay down carefully on the dirt, but he struggles at her touch. But he's beginning to weaken, and he can't fight off anyone now, let alone her.
Once he's lying on his back, she runs a gentle hand down his cheek to check for broken bones in his face. She doesn't find any, but he starts leaning into her hand like a cat. As he finally relaxes, she wonders if perhaps he fled from a hospital, thus explaining the stomach-turning stitches covering his body. A head injury might explain his lack of understanding of language, but his eyes are bright and clear and aware of what is going on. Well, she can discover what language he speaks after she gets him proper medical attention.
But to do so, his nakedness must be dealt with.
She takes a shawl from her carpetbag and wraps it around his waist, tying the fabric in a knot at his hip. Even the simple act of buttoning the coat enthralls him, and a hint of a smile tugs at the corner of his mouth.
But then she catches a glimpse of something red in the pocket of the coat.
She pulls out a book, dimly recognizing it as Victor's from the day he left for university. The scarred man recoils when she opens the cover, and she has to take a few minutes to assure him the book won't hurt him. When she does start to flip through the pages, she sees Victor's familiar handwriting. But there are also sketches of hearts and brains and nerve endings, and out of the corner of her eye, she sees the man beside her tracing the stitching on his body with his fingers. But disturbingly on the last page, Victor had scrawled first attempt at creating life tonight in the surgical classroom, and the rest of the journal is blank.
Even as bile rises in her throat, she announces, "Well, young Mr. Frankenstein is just going to have to explain himself. Come with me, sir."
After a moment, he follows her, and they walk together towards the Frankenstein home.
When William takes off the blindfold, he can't breathe.
But the boy's curiosity fights to win out over his fear. When he is safely behind the table where he does lessons with Justine, William calls out, "What are you?"
The grotesque man blinks at him.
"Were you in a war?" That's the only thing that can justify those scars, right?
"Where are the rest of your clothes?"
The man clad in only a coat doesn't say a word.
When William's questions cease, the man looks about at the party decorations. He seems fascinated by the colorful paper chains on the railing, but as he stops by the slice of cake that William had dropped, the boy hears the man's stomach growl. William has seen starving people before, but this strange visitor is truly skin and bones.
"You can have cake if you want," William offers, finally emerging from behind the table. The man looks at him when he speaks, but doesn't seem to understand. The boy shrugs and goes over the table, cutting another piece and shoving it onto a china plate. "Here you are–"
But the man is now kneeling by the slice still on the ground. The scarred stranger puts a fingertip on the dessert and brings it to his mouth, eyes lighting up in wonder at the sweet taste.
Odd that they do not have cake where he is from, William thinks.
"Let me get you a fork." The boy sets down the second slice on the table and holds out the silver utensil, only for the suddenly terrified man to rip the fork from William's hand and throw it into the trees.
“No need for utensils, then," William amends nervously, taken aback by the abject fear in the man's eyes. "You can keep eating it with your hands. I wish I could, but people say it is not a proper thing to do…" William trails off and grabs a chunk of the cake lying on the grass, demonstrating what he means. "You can have more if you wish," the boy adds, brushing crumbs from the corner of his mouth.
The man hesitantly crawls back to the dessert, swiping at the buttercream frosting with a finger, but then he copies William's previous actions. As the guest devours the cake in handfuls, the boy watches and decides that the man is by far the oddest person he has ever met. But didn't the revered say in church just this past Sunday to show kindness to the less fortunate?
This man certainly counts as one.
So William goes to the table, picks up the serving dish, and takes the entire cake to the man. The guest eats it so quickly William wonders if he might be sick, but what's one birthday cake? He will have plenty in the future. But when every last crumb is gone, William realizes he has no idea what to do next.
Yet when the boy takes a few steps back to find someone, the man starts to follow, dark eyes desperate. It's as if he is terrified of being left alone.
"I will return shortly. Stay here," William adds, feeling the man's gaze following him as the boy heads towards his family and the partygoers. Surely Justine will know what to do, or Elizabeth, or Father.
Elizabeth screams as she watches the life drain out of Henry's eyes and then she's scrambling for the gun as the horrifying man turns to face her–
They stand there, hearts pounding in the way Henry's never will again. The heart of Victor's father will never beat again, will it, nor the organs in William or Justine or Mrs. Frankenstein's chests. They are all dead now, and two of them have passed at Elizabeth's own wedding. It was supposed to be finally a day of peace and joy, but instead has turned into yet another nightmare.
She's tired of death and blood and lives ending.
As Elizabeth continues to aim the pistol at the murderer, her hands shake even harder as tears run down her face. Haven't enough people died already? Hasn't there been enough destruction? And even as the man takes a threatening step toward her, Elizabeth's finger can't press the trigger.
She can't contribute to the body count.
The bride drops the pistol just as Victor rushes in, aiming his own gun at the other man, and Elizabeth throws herself between them.
Victor still holds the gun aloft. "Elizabeth, what are you doing?"
She raises her chin. "Enough people have died so far."
"He killed Henry and my father–" her husband of an hour protests.
"Would they want you to kill in return?" she cuts in. "Would William want this? Would your mother?"
Victor is openly crying. "But he–"
"Do the right thing," she urges. "I know it is hard, harder than anything you will ever do. I know. But you cannot do this, Victor."
It seems to take an eternity, but the pistol finally clatters onto the floor. Even though she knows the murderer could easily lunge at her now, Elizabeth goes to Victor as he falls to his knees, and she holds him as he weeps. But then the murderer says a single word.
The bride and groom turn to look at him.
"Why did you let me live?" the scarred man asks, tears in his dark eyes. "I deserve to die. Why did you not kill me?"
"Because," Victor says, dragging a shaky breath through his nose, "Elizabeth is right." Her husband drags a shaky breath through his nose.
"We cannot repay death with death."