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She was a good wife, in almost every way. Easy on the eyes, small, obedient. Sure, she sometimes spoke as if she were throwing rocks, but he'd be lying if he said that that wasn't damn attractive. At any rate, she was light enough to throw over his shoulder when she did speak out of turn, and while locking her in towers no longer seemed appropriate, a good old fashioned week of hard work usually straightened her out, or at least made her tired enough to take off the edge. "My Countess," he'd croon, fingers hooked beneath her chin as she looked away. He'd chide her for the bags under her eyes, "They're almost as violet as you are," laughing as she looked down, averting her face from his gaze.

"My Countess," he'd croon, wine still on his hot breath, unsteadily using her for drunken support. And his dreadful henchmen would laugh and whistle and she would stand beside him, silent, a pet, as he gripped her. One time she threw a wine glass. He made her glue it all back together, and after nights of painstaking work, when she had finally finished he dropped it, shattering it at her feet. That was one of the first times he had smiled at her. "My Countess," he'd croon, "my Delectable Dearest."

She had rounded 18 quickly. Had it really been four years already? "Our anniversary's arriving," he'd joked, holding her shoulders, nipping at her ear. He didn't strike her anymore. Her face was too pretty to be risked. Truly, she had only blossomed with age, if the pun would be allowed. Her eyes were dark and her skin was soft and pale from soaking in so many nights of moonlight. True, her hands were calloused, but who among his troop couldn't say the same? Sometimes he'd take her hand just to hold when she stood beside him at table. It unnerved her. He liked that.

She was just past 18. And a month after that, was a wife of four years. A Countess of four years. She missed school. She missed her family. She missed her home. She missed being a child. She longed now for solitude, away from prying fingers and leering faces and pinching hands- she just wanted to be alone. That was all she wanted anymore- to be left alone.

His Countess, his Bride. His. He often had to remind a wandering eye of that via sharp slap when she left the room for more wine. Not that she ever looked at any of his men, or women for that matter. It was more so that he didn't trust them to keep their hands nor hooks to themselves. Many of them had come smiling, nudging, leering to him the first day of his married life, asking if she really was worth all that wait. And of course he told them stories. He was an actor, he was good at creating stories. What they didn't know wouldn't hurt them, and might in fact encourage them to keep their hands, real or otherwise, to themselves.

She made no secret of the fact that she hated his men. She had spoken out of turn many times. Sometimes he would get angry. Sometimes he would laugh. The worst always came when they were drunk.

When they drank, it became particularly bad. Since that was more or less a constant state of affairs, it was a continual battle.

When they drank they would get lazy, forget to look away, lick their lips as she walked by, her petite, grab-able frame waltzing between them, pouring wine. He would call to her, "My Countess," pull her into his lap amongst a crowd of cheers, let someone else finish the wine-pouring. She was his to protect and preserve. She was his prize.

She had learned to act like she didn't notice the gaping glances, hands "accidentally" brushing her thigh, skirt getting caught on some fake appendage or another as they would laugh. And then he would call her. His drunken voice loud and merry, but his eyes twinkling with anger. He would pull her into his lap, clutch her shoulder with bony fingers, place his other hand on her hip, kiss at her neck, if he'd had enough to drink. And while it was a relief to be away from the direct assaults of the henchmen, she couldn't help but worry when he would begin to ask for more in return for her protection. He was her husband of four years, and he was a man of appetites. He was biding his time, and she knew it.

He was biding his time. She would be his.


Chapter Text

The troop banged their forks on the table, creating a rude clatter. She ran betwixt them, scarcely having served one of them before another would join in on the cacophony of noise. Eventually, they quieted down, or at least as far as the noise was directed at her. They became more and more drunk, laughing amongst themselves.

 

Olaf sat at the head of the table, watching her scurry back and forth obediently. She was quiet, reserved, well disciplined. He watched her above the brim of his glass, drinking deeply to mark his enjoyment. His chest swelled with pride at having so beautiful a wife. And she was beautiful. Almost perfect, if it weren't for her horrendous lack of vices.

 

They began one by one, snapping at her for refills of their drinks. She abandoned the pot and, taking up a bottle of wine, began to make her rounds again. One man, particularly brazen, slipped a hand along her thigh, whispering "And dessert?" Her face flushed and she dropped the bottle with a clatter. The man quickly removed his hand, lest Olaf see him and remove it in a more literal sense.

"And now you've made a mess. Not to mention wasted very fine wine." He reprimanded from the head of the table. She stooped, still flushed from the attack, trying to recover the bottle. It wasn't a fine wine- she knew that. Even with plenty of money at his disposal, Olaf still insisted on buying the cheapest liquor he could find in order to buy a great deal of it.

"Sorry." She whispered, using a rag to clean the spill.

 

He wasn't stupid. He had seen his man's wandering fingers. Moreso, he had seen the flush of her face. His pride roared in his chest at the thought that any man might have his wife before he got a chance to take what was his. As she scurried into the kitchen, he stood, jealousy blooming in his sternum, and followed her.

 

She stood at the sink, wrapping the bits of glass in a cloth to be disposed of. She could use them as a weapon, she mused; she could kill him. She allowed herself the thought for only a second. No, she wasn't a villain, she could never murder. Not to mention the fact that she had no interest in spending the rest of her days in jail. Perhaps she could melt the pieces down into something, bring something beautiful into her life. Reflexively, she reached back to tie her hair up when her elbow bumped into someone.

She turned, startled. He had followed her into the kitchen, and was standing right behind her, leering down as if in deep thought. He was looking at her face, but didn't seem to be looking at her. She didn't like the feeling it dredged up within her. A mostly empty wine bottle dangled from his hand. She raised her hand to her chest, the other braced behind her on the counter. "I'm sorry, you scared me." She muttered, looking down.

He didn't reply, just kept watching her. He was entirely too close. He lifted a hand to her face.

 

Instinctively, she flinched. That irritated him. He hadn't hit her in years, not since her last great outburst. She had gotten cleverer since then, learned to undermine and bite rather than throw things. He'd be lying if he said he didn't find the change highly erotic. He took her chin in his hand, softly, as if to prove his point. Firmly, he pointed her face upwards towards himself.

"You're my wife you know."

She didn't respond.

"My Countess. My wife. My prize. Operative word being MY."

Resentment flared in her eyes.

"I'm aware."

"Are you though?"

 

His words slurred together as he leaned in closer, tightening his grip on her. "By the way you let them look at you, I couldn't tell." There was an angry rumble in his voice. He pressed further against her, trapping her against the counter.

"If you're insinuating anything, I haven't-"

"I'm not insinuating anything, simply implying that-"

"That's what insinuating means." He paused at her impudence. She stuttered. "Insinuate, it's a word that means-"

He growled, and lifting her under her arms, hoisted her up, sitting her on the counter. She flinched backwards against the backsplash. Closely, he leaned in toward her so they were eye to eye. He stood between her knees, gripping her tightly by the waist.

 

"It means that I don't want to be undermined by a forgetful wife." She shivered against his words, trying unsuccessfully to hide the fear on her face. "It also means," gripping her at the knees, he pulled her forwards, holding her fast at the back so that she was against him, her arms braced to his chest, "that you could stand for a bit more pluck." He spit out the last three words from between his teeth.

 

"Pardon me for not committing suicide via catcall."

He paused for a moment before smiling hungrily. "Perfect, just like that." He growled, stealing a sharp kiss against her jaw. She gasped. He grabbed at her, hoisting her up bridal style before kicking the door open with his foot, loudly, causing the entire troop to turn and look at them.

 

"Time to leave, I want to fuck my wife." His drunken voice boomed in the hall, and was met with a loud cheer from the group, followed by the scraping of chairs away from the table and dropping of bottles. Of course they didn't clean anything up, Violet noted dejectedly. She felt an anxious heat rise in the back of her sternum. He stood there, waiting, until the last of them left, slamming the door behind them, before walking over and dropping her onto the couch. He staggered over to his arm chair, and fell into it with equal irreverence. Resting his head against his hand, he began to massage his eyes tiredly.

 

She slid her knees over the side so that she was sitting up. He wasn't used to not taking what he wanted, and she wasn't sure how much longer he would wait. She remembered the fear of the first night, feeling as if she would throw up with the anxiety as he scooped her up and proclaimed to the troop that they were on their way to retire to their wedding chambers, only to have him unceremoniously dump her on this same lumpy couch. "There is a master bed in my room, and a broken couch beneath you. Take your pick." He had turned and left her feeling rather afraid and very much confused.

 

Since then, she had spent every night in the hall. In fact, the couch was the only thing he refused to change despite his newfound wealth. He refused to coddle her decision, though he would not fight it. He was, however, careful to make sure she was always awake before any guests might arrive, not wanting them to catch a glimpse at his softness. It wasn't his fault, though. Even a villain accustomed to continual wickedness ought to have their stomach turn at certain crimes. It let you know that you were wicked by choice, and not simply because you didn't know any better. He was a villain by choice, which in his pompous opinion, made him much worse.

 

She cleared her throat. "Thank you." He grumbled in reply.

"I didn't do it for you."

"Alright"

 

He peered up at her. Her legs looked so pale against her dark dress. She would be so easy to take. He wouldn't though. He fancied himself a Don Juan, (not that he knew who that was), a master of seduction. Even more than he wanted to bury his face in her hair, he wanted to hear her cry out "oh yes!" in ecstasy. Oh yes. He would bed her, and she would like it, whether or not she expected to.

 

He kept his hand to his eyes. "You are my wife, not some common whore they drag in. If they touch you, put a fork in their hand. Unless I happen to need them for an upcoming heist. Then act upon your own discretion."

She looked down at the floor, nervously smoothing her dress. Tiredly, he stood up, leaving to go to his room. She sighed deeply, and pulled her cardigan from her shoulders. She waited until she heard the door to his bedroom close, and then slunk into the small room she was allowed for her things. He had offered her fine clothes, but she never particularly liked the scratchy, gaudy outfits he always seems to suggest. Slipping out of her day dress, she pulled a cotton nightgown over her head. She looked in the mirror. She felt most like herself in simple clothes- outfits fit for running and inventing, no extra fabrics to get caught in the gears. They at least made her feel a bit more at home within herself. As she folded her worn clothes, she noticed a box in the corner. Sighing, she opened it. Inside lay a folded blue velvet dress. She lifted it, expecting lace and frills to unfurl behind it. Surprisingly, the dress was simple. Clean figure, reasonable hem, it was quite nice actually. She inspected it a moment before refolding it and tucking it back into the box. The house was quiet. She took a moment to appreciate that, wrapping her thin arms around herself. She could hear the muffled chirps of nocturnal insects, but other than that, everything was still. If she closed her eyes, she could be anywhere. She let her mind wander, freeing herself, before she began to shiver in the cold. Pulling on some thick socks, she gathered her blanket, and left for bed.

Chapter Text

He barely looked up from his script when she entered the kitchen area, placing the groceries on the table. "Oh, you've returned."

"You act surprised."

"I always am." He took a sip of his coffee. He waited until her back was turned to watch her. She was wearing the dress he had given her, he noted with pride. True, she was covering all the best parts of it with a raggedy sweater, but he would take the victories he could get. He looked back down as she turned towards him again.

"Does it fit well?"

"Pardon?" Her cheeks were still flushed from the cold outside.

"The dress. Does it fit well?"

"Oh." She looked down, as if noticing herself for the first time. "Yes, um, thank you."

He lifted the script back up to hide his face. "It's about time you started to dress like a proper woman."

She didn't reply to his remark, which irritated him. He didn't like being ignored. He looked up, aiming to further provoke her, when he noticed her hair tied up. There was no use talking to her now, she was probably too lost in thought to even hear him.

Just as he was about to return to his reading, she began to hum quietly under her breath, only just loud enough that he could barely catch it. She smiled as she worked, he noticed. Or, not smiled… she didn’t frown. He slunk down in his seat, disgusted with the feeling it created within him. Sure he was fond of the girl, but strictly as a trophy. It wasn't affection or anything similarly uncouth. He straightened the papers before him, clearing his throat, trying to shake off the feeling. She paused.

"I'm sorry, did you say something?"

"No, I, um," he cleared his throat again before waving a hand at her dismissively. "Don't stop."

"Okay?" She turned back to the groceries and continued putting them away, a quizzical look on her face.

"No, I meant the singing. Don't, um, don't stop." He looked back down at his script, trying to appear entirely indifferent, but he couldn't read a single line.

 

His script was upside down. She watched him, confused. He held the papers tight to his face. Perhaps he knew what he was doing. Actors were strange. Turning away, she began to restock the cabinets, humming to herself, letting her mind wander. She was inventing a machine that could restock the cans automatically- something that would allow you to both organize them neatly and keep them in order by kind without taking up too much space. Perhaps she could design a organizational system similar to the Dewey Decimal. She wasn't particularly adept at library sciences, but Klaus would know- Klaus. The note in her mouth turned sour. Her siblings. She missed them. However, since Olaf had seized all their money, the only way she could keep them safe was by staying here. She bought their freedom at the cost of hers. It had been made abundantly clear that the only way any Baudelaire money was going to make its way to helping the younger siblings was for her to remain in the house. She was free to escape at any time, but would do so at the price of the roof over her siblings' heads, not to mention the food in their bellies and books in their hands. The school had a wonderful library, she had made sure of that, pleading for at least that small favor. It had cost her a kiss on the cheek, but she had sworn to her parents to protect her siblings, and she would, even if it brought her unbearable grief.

 

The expression on her face turned to sadness. She continued humming but it sounded more like a dirge than anything else. He didn't like that. She was making him sad now. He cleared his throat again.

She looked up, startled out of her reverie. "I have a gift for you." She continued to stare at him, her expression blank and unchanging. "It is..." he glanced around the room, hoping to find something to say. He was an actor, he was supposed to be a master of improv. "An afternoon off." She looked at him, confused.

"Excuse me?"

"Yes," he said, straightening up. "I have a lot of work to do, and I need a quiet house, so you are free to do whatever suits your own particular fancy as long as it is not too loud.

"Oh… alright. Although if you don't mind, I think I'll finish putting these cans away first." She turned away and went back to work. He didn't understand her. She made absolutely no sense at all.

 

He found her later in the small spare room she kept her things in. She didn't have many things, so she didn't need much room. That wasn't his fault- he offered her many things, but she never wanted them. She asked for very little- the freedom to walk to the library, a toolbox, scrap metal, small weird things like that. She was tinkering at the desk he had placed in there, bent over some sort of contraption.

He wouldn't admit it, but he very seldom had any idea what she was doing. She was clever, unnervingly so. He made a habit of being the smartest person in any given room, but she was challenging that.

"Violet."

She looked up at him.

"First off, straighten your posture, you'll give yourself psoriasis."

Her face scrunched in confusion.

"Secondly, I already gave you the evening off, but I have an important dinner tonight, and I'm going to need you to smile and hand wine to a very important man. So brush your hair. Do you understand?"

She paused, staring at a spot on the floor before looking up at him.

"Do you mean scoliosis?"

He blinked at her. "What did you just call me?"

"No, I..." she waved her hand in a swooping motion. He stared at her. "Yes, I'll be ready."

"Good." He closed the door behind him. She swiveled in her seat, facing her desk. He threw the door open again. "And don't forget to look happy."

"Yes of course."

He nodded and moved to shut the door again before pausing, looking at her.

"Wear your hair up. It looks distinguished."

This time he shut the door for real. She waited for his footsteps to die down before she slumped back over her desk. Great. Another "prestigious man." She flicked at a splinter of metal on the desk. It hit the floor with a pinging sound, reverberating the noise against the silent walls. Sighing, she stood up, striding over to the mirror, gathering her long hair in her hands.

 

The playwright arrived a little after seven. Olaf spoke to him loudly, filling the dining space with his confidence and charisma. The man himself was a good foot shorter than him. He wore glasses (how unfortunate) and shuffled his papers constantly. It was gratingly irritating. Still, he fancied himself nothing if not charming, and so called upon all his acting skills to woo this man into handing over the lead role in his new production. He was just stuttering over the character descriptions when Violet arrived right on time with the wine. The nervous man paused when she entered the room, pushing up his glasses. Olaf scowled, slipping into a wide smile when the he looked over to him again. He placed a protective hand on her hip

"Is, is this your daughter?"

Olaf's face fell back into its scowl. "My wife."

"Oh!" The nervous man blushed, his hands flying to his face. "Oh my, I'm so sorry, y-you have a lovely wife. Er, I mean to say, I am. Charmed." He thrust his hand out at her. She smiled warmly and shook it politely before beginning to pour them both glasses of wine. Olaf hated him.

"O-oh! Madame Count, I, I'm sorry, I don't drink wine." He lifted his hands in apology. "It's no good for my nerves."

"Oh." She blinked at him. "Would you prefer some tea?"

"That-that would be lovely, if it's, it's no trouble. Th-thank you."

"No trouble at all, I already have a pot on the stove for myself." She turned and left the room again. He turned back to Olaf.

"L-lovely woman-"

"Yes, well, she's married." His knuckles were white from the strain of clutching his own hands.

"Oh, I know, I didn't mean to imply-"

"She's married to me. We're very happy." They sat in stiff silence.

Finally, coughing uncomfortably, the nervous man lifted his papers again. "Yes, well, as I was saying,"

"Darling," Olaf called across the dining hall as Violet reentered the room, "tell this man how happy we are." She looked up at the nervous man as she poured his tea.

"We are so happy." Her tone was flat. He looked away awkwardly.

"How, how lovely. Newly weds?"

Before she could respond, Olaf slipped an arm around her, pulling her to his side.

"Still honeymooning in fact, isn't that right, Dearest?" She smiled at the man, a tight lipped, no teeth smile.

He uncomfortably took a sip of his tea. "You... scheduled a meeting for during your honeymoon?"

"Oh, she doesn't mind. We have plenty of time. Like I say, sometimes it seems this honeymoon will never end." He smiled through gritted teeth. "Never."

The nervous man tilted his head to the side, smiling uncomfortably as well, "Yes, well, love can make you feel that way."

"But not with her." Olaf pointed to Violet. They all stared. "Because she's already my wife." He lifted her left hand to show the man her ring. She shrugged, still smiling that tight lipped smile.

The nervous man placed his cup back on the table and checked the broken clock which always read that it was three in the afternoon. "Oh my, is that w-what time it is already? I must be off, so sorry, perhaps another time. I-it was lovely to meet you, I'll see myself out."

Olaf sunk into his chair at the slamming of the door.

"Well that was terrible, thank you ever so much." His words melted under the sarcasm.

"Me? I hardly said three words to him. You're the one who frightened him."

He looked up at her exasperatedly, "Well if you weren't so busy flirting-"

"Flirting?" Her voice rose in tone. "I literally did exactly what you asked of me-"

"Oh did you?" He widened his eyes mockingly, "Because I don't seem to recall asking you to brew him some tea. What was that all about?"

They were hushed by a knock on the door. Irritated beyond belief, she strode over to the entrance hall, pulling it open. It was the nervous man again. "I um," he looked petrified, "I forgot my hat."

"Oh, one second." She lifted it off the coat rack and handed it to him. She could feel Olaf smoldering ten feet away. She sighed. "Listen." He looked at her pleadingly, like he only wanted to take his hat and run. "I am married. To a man. This man." She gestured towards him with an open-handed sweeping gesture. "We are in love. We kiss all the time. I like his face, I think it's nice. I have no interest in dating you. That being said," She looked over her shoulder again, sighing at her husband's wild gesturing. She switched her voice to a tired monotone. "That being said he is a wonderful man and talented actor and you should not not hire him just because of my impropriety. Your play will be at a loss without him." He stared at her, a little less terrified but still alarmed and confused. She gestured out. "You may leave now." He scurried off into the night. She shut the door and turned to lean against it, but jumped when she found Olaf immediately behind it. She clutched her chest. "God, you scared me. Was that suitable enough to your liking?"

He smiled, a full toothy smile, leaning down over her. "What could be wrong?" He swept her up into his arms, waltzing her around the room. "We are in love, you like my face, you think it's niiiiiiiiice." She blushed as he spun her.

"I only said it to stop your temper tantrum."

"Darling I've seen your work," he paused, "you're really not that great of an actress." He continued spinning her before dropping her into a low dip. "We are in love and kiss all the time." Swinging her arms around his neck, she pulled herself to him, kissing him fiercely on the lips. He froze, heart pounding. He couldn't tell if his head was spinning from the kiss or the dancing, but his heart swelled in shock.

She slipped from his arms and sauntered over to the couch, falling into it. "See, for all your talk, you'd have no idea what to do if I actually did kiss you."

He turned around in the doorway, pausing to look at her. Her back was to him. Her shoulders were rolled forward, and with one hand, she was rubbing at the muscles at the nape of her neck. His eyes wandered further down, savoring the dipped back of the dress. He stiffened in surprise. The back of her ribs sported several light bruises, assorted shades of yellow and purple dancing across her otherwise fair skin.

 

He paused for a moment before striding over to her, lifting her chin to look at him. She was by no means short, but he was a tall man, and so as he craned her neck upwards, it took a moment for their eyes to meet. He sat on the couch beside her, tightly gripping her by the shoulders to turn her away from him. "Who did this?" His voice was quiet.

His gut roared with anger that anyone had dared touch his wife, his Countess, in such a way. The culprit might as well have written their signature, gloating their place on her body. She flushed.

"No one! I mean, me I suppose. I mean. It's the couch, it's... it's not exactly soft. Don't worry. I'm sorry, I..." she trailed off, unsure what he wanted to hear. He sighed, running a finger against her skin. She gasped at the touch of his cold hand, stiffening her back. He smiled at so intense a reaction, imagining how easy it would be to slink his arms around her body, bury his face in her neck, make sure to mark her as his. He dropped his smile when she looked over her shoulder at him. Softly, he traced his hands up her back until his fingers rested on her shoulders. With the whispering tips of his fingers, he pushed the fabric over her shoulders so that it fell along the top of her bust. She lifted her hands to catch it, clutching it close to her.

"Olaf, I-"

"You're really never as clever as I give you credit for. Here you are, the bride of a wealthy, dashing man, sleeping on a bed no better than a pile of rocks." He began to rub her shoulders. She hummed a quick staccato note at the sensation, not daring to say more. "If you're going to be a Countess, you really must learn to act like one." His hands trailed across the back of her ribs, massaging the tender skin. She shuttered. He worked with such tenderness one might mistake it for kindness. Rubbing in small circles with the pads of his thumbs, he pressed against her spine, pleased at her quiet pleasure. When he reached her neck, he gathered her hair in one hand, pushing it to the side, purposefully grazing her cheek with his hand before leaning in and placing a kiss on the base of her neck. She inhaled sharply, and found with a pang that she regretted the loss of touch when he leaned away from her, removing his hands from her body. She turned to look at him. He met her eyes for only a second before pulling her to him, snaking one arm behind her and another across her knees to scoot her close to his body, lifting her legs across his own, tilting himself to press against her side.

"Now, a Countess must have manners." He smiled, inches from her face.

She cleared her throat before meeting his eyes, a nervous tingling settling inside her.

"Thank, thank you."

 

"A Countess must also keep up appearances. As I've explained before, a violet Violet is far too literal for my tastes. I will find you a new..." he looked down at the couch, "bed, but until then, it is unfit for my bride to be sleeping in such conditions." He lifted her into the air, relishing the way she gasped and instinctively clung to him as he stood. Everyone ought to get themselves such an easily portable wife, he mused; they're really quite efficient.

He carried her up the stairs and into his own master bedroom, placing emphasis on the word "master” within his mind.

 

Violet was caught between shoving him off and toppling to the floor or waiting to be put down and facing a potentially even more troublesome fate. Before she had the chance to make up her mind, he dropped her on the bed. She landed facing up, braced by her hand against the springy mattress.

"Until we find a place of repose fit for my bride, you'll just have to suffer through sharing with me. I'm sure you can imagine worse things," he growled. She could, though she wouldn't admit it. She stayed silent, fearing retribution for a wrong answer.

 

He didn't like her silences. They were too calculated. And not in a "what will happen" way, which could be quite sexy and exciting, but in a resigned, all-answers-are-wrong way, which irked him. He preferred the fiery, biting girl to this sullen wife, and found himself trying to provoke her more and more often. She looked up at him, wary. Disappointed in her lack of reply he turned his back to her and began to unbutton his own shirt.

"Are you sleeping in your clothes now, too?"

She slipped from the room before he finished undressing, padding down the hall to the small room she was afforded for her things. Opening the top drawer in the small cupboard, she pulled a nightshirt out. Slowly, she pulled the dress over her head, noticing the sensation of velvet against her skin. She hugged her arms to herself, feeling her fingers against her cold skin. His hands had felt so much warmer than hers. Probably from the wine. She pulled the night dress over her head before putting on thick wool socks. Slowly, hesitantly, she reopened the door before heading down the hall back to the master bedroom. She paused before opening the door, weighing the ramifications of his disfavor with the solitude of sleeping on the floor. Breathing deep, she opened the door.

He was already asleep, face down, on top of the red duvet. The bed was large- he was a man of expensive taste. Meaning, she had plenty of room to slip in against the edge without touching him.

She pulled the covers around her shoulders, and turning her back to him, fell into an uneasy sleep.

Chapter Text

When he awoke, she lay curled in a fetal position against him, tucked against his side for the warmth. The covers were thrown off so that her legs were uncovered, and in the early morning light, her bare skin seemed almost luminous. Her hair was splayed across her face and she slept deeply. Her lips were drawn in a pout even in her sleep. He reached out gently and stroked the stray strands from her face. Her cheeks were red, and the thin veins beneath her eyelids gave the pale skin a blueish tint. Her eyelashes fluttered as she dreamed, her mind and body no doubt grateful for a real bed. She was passingly beautiful; many men would give their right arm to be where he was now. And he would kill them if they tried. He breathed deep. He was a jealous man, and the thought of any other person lying where he was now swelled within him. However, rather than the dull ache of jealousy, he felt the sharp edge of protectiveness. Not just of his property, but of her, as a person. She slept so innocently. He lay back down beside her, curling his body into a question mark around her. She sighed in her sleep, and moved closer into his warmth. He rested his head behind hers and breathed in the scent of her hair deeply. Carefully, he slunk his arm around her, gentle so that he would not wake her.

He listened to the deep sound of her breathing, and closing his eyes, willed himself back to sleep.

 

When she awoke, it was within the tangle of his limbs. Her breath caught in her throat and she immediately tensed. His breathing was slow- he was still asleep. Her mind began turning as she tried to decide what to do. It was continually surprising, how warm he was physically. She had always assumed such an imposing man could only have ice for bones. As she tried to pull away, his long fingers tightened their grip, holding her to him. She tensed, resigning herself back into his hold. Whether or not she cared to admit it, he did make her feel almost safe in an odd way. Almost as if by marrying such a man, she had a golem on her side. His size and demeanor were terrifying, but since that seemed to be the popular opinion of everyone he met, he felt like an advantageous partner, so long as she was going to live in a hive of villainy.  

Chapter Text

The sun was streaming through the windows by the time she got up. Stretching, she rubbed the sleep from her eyes. The bed really was soft. She hadn't slept so well in years.

Padding softly, she made her way down the stairs and into the kitchen. He had a cup of coffee waiting on the table for her. She slipped softly down into her seat.

"Two sugars, yes?"

She turned to look at him.

"Yes, thank you." She held the cup warily.

He raised his eyebrow. "I haven't poisoned it." To demonstrate his point, he lifted the cup to his own lips, taking a sip before placing it back into her hands. She drank slowly, not moving her eyes from him. He stood still, watching her, trying very hard to appear nonchalant.

"Okay, something's up." She leaned against the table. "What are you doing?"

"What, can a man not make his wife, his Countess, a cup of coffee without some ulterior motive?"

"Historically, no." She leaned back. "Four years and you've never made coffee for me once. What are you up to?"

 

He was genuinely taken aback.

"That can't be true. I've made coffee for you dozens of times."

She raised an eyebrow.

"What about that time after the heist? With the bank? And the flamingos?"

"The one where you all got very drunk and then had me make you black coffee to sober up? Which you promptly spilled on me?"

He paused, pursing his lips in thought.

"I must have made coffee for you before at some point. Anyway," he waved the thought away with his hands, "it's irrelevant because I've made you coffee now. You are welcome." He leaned back, pleased with himself. She glanced between the cup and him quickly.

"Is this because I kissed you to make a point?" He scoffed, laughing.

"I'd hardly say it was to make a point. Can't a wife kiss her husband and husband make his wife coffee without opening a full investigation?"

She squinted her eyes, incredulous. "Are you... trying to condition me?"

"Will you just drink the damn coffee?" He gestured at it with accusatory hands. "I am being nice and you are making me regret it." He stood up from the table.

"We have an important dinner tonight, I expect everything to be prepared in time for my troop's arrival." Turning swiftly, he left the room in a huff.

She leaned back in her seat, peering out the window. She took another sip. It really was good coffee, even if it was being used as a bribe.

Chapter Text

They were drunk again. Very drunk. Whatever they had done, it had been a success and they were celebrating boisterously. There was plenty to drink- they each had already downed a bottle or two apiece. The wine and liquor were disappearing alarmingly quickly, and their faces were all red with blood and heat and laughter. Olaf was sprawled out on his chair, limbs hanging over the edge as he threw his head back in laughter with the rest.

She was busy, constantly filling and refilling empty glasses, and placing full bottles in empty hands. They were excitable, happy, elated. They grabbed at her, pulling the food from the plates she carried. Even her watchful husband wasn't eyeing her too carefully, caught up in the revelry. And so it made sense that certain members of the troop might feel untouchable in their drunken impunity. And so it happened that a certain man, squat and filled with gin, found it appropriate to grab a teetering Violet, who was busy trying to balance beneath trays of food,  holding her by the thighs and pulling her into his open lap. She squeaked, and without thinking, grabbed a fork off the table and promptly jabbed it into one of the offending hands. He yelled and dropped her to the floor. The crowd grew quiet, staring down at them. Violet looked up at them from the floor, open-mouthed, desperate for words.

 

Olaf sat up, peering down at her disinterestedly before looking back up at the crowd, "I believe my wife has made her point. She has all my skill with sharp objects and twice the impunity of any of you. Tread carefully." He dismissed the spectacle with a wave of his hand and began to drink deeply from his glass again. Taking his cue, the others went back to their conversations.

 

She stood up and began to scurry back to the kitchen, embarrassed, but not before her doting husband caught her by the wrist. "Take a break, they can fend for themselves." He pulled her into his lap with one hand, pressing his glass into her hands with his other.

"Oh, no, I'm-"

"It's good wine. Enjoy. You deserve to be part of the celebration," he tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear, "my lovely Countess."

 

He pressed the cup to her until she took it in both hands, taking a small sip to placate him. She glanced down into the glass. It was good- sweet. The liquid swirled, blood red. She looked up at him. He was still watching her, smiling. Nodding, he lifted the bottle to refill her glass before boisterously rejoining the conversation. His hand was gripped tight against her waist, holding her to him. She took another, deeper sip.

 

It was a cup of miracles- one that never ran dry even as the night went on. Granted, that may have been from his constant refilling. She couldn't take so much as a sip before he replaced it. She remained quiet, uninvolved, but found the company was much more tolerable with her head swimming with thoughts. No wonder they drank all the time. Her mechanical mind let her strict neural paths blend into one another until she was hazy in her own world.

 

He kept his hand fast on her upper thigh. After his second or so bottle, he began to distractedly trace circles on her leg with his thumb. The sensation was soothing. She leaned into his touch, finding a safe comfort in it, not having to worry about the hands of strangers. Soon, she felt herself nodding off to sleep. A few of the troop members had already passed out, leaning against the table. She hardly noticed herself slipping away until the door shut with a loud bang, and she startled from her position. She had fallen asleep with her head in the crook of his neck. Embarrassed, she tried to straighten up.

 

"Now now, evening's done, time for bed." he whispered into her hair as her head groggily rolled to the side. He propped her up as he stood, stretching, before turning to go. She took a step and stumbled. He glanced over at her, eyebrow raised. She lurched forward, bracing her hand against the wall. "Had a bit too much, did we?"

"No, I'm fine, I'm..." she stumbled again.

For once, she was glad as he lifted her to carry her to their room, even if she was being carried remarkably like a potato sack.

 

He threw her over his shoulder and did his best to ignore the bare skin of her thighs beside his face. His own thoughts were swimmingly hazy, and he was trying very hard not to drop her on the way. He carried her into the bedroom before setting her on the edge of the bed. "Where's your nightshirt?"

"I'm fine, I can get it," she grumbled, hating the infantilization in his words.

"Here, just wear this. I'm tired and don't feel like searching." He tossed a shirt to her from his wardrobe. Grumbling but too tired to argue, she picked it up to put it on.

Just wanting to go to bed, she pulled her dress over her head, not caring nor noticing that he was still in the room.

 

He stared as she lifted the stain-addled dress above her head, her tender ribs flexing against her taunt skin in the soft light. He wanted to touch her, to taste her, to bury himself in her. Surely every inch of her must be so soft, he thought, gaping. She didn't even notice, or at any rate didn't seem to care, as she slipped the silk shirt over her body, adding just another layer of sensual softness. Fortunately or unfortunately, he dressed to accentuate his own fine features, and so the buttons only came to the height of her breasts. She stretched, revealing a few precious inches of skin along her pale thighs, before leaning back onto the bed. Hesitantly, he undid his own buttons, quietly pulling off his shirt and pants, willing an erection not to rise.

He crawled beside her, purposefully laying on his side so that he could watch her.

"Hey." She whispered, eyes still closed.

 

"Hello." He was embarrassed by the smile in his voice.

"If I kiss you again, will you make me coffee tomorrow?"

He smiled for real this time. "Only if you make it a good one."

Gently, she shifted her body so that she lay on her side. She kicked her leg between his, trying to get close enough to reach. Taking his face in her hand, she pulled him towards herself.

When she kissed him this time it was soft, delicate, sleepy. He rested his hand on her waist, gentle, not pulling, just holding. She pulled back, resting her head on the pillow.

"You still haven't figured out what to do when I kiss you."

He scoffed. "Just wait until I kiss you. Then you'll see."

They lay together in silence.

Softly, she turned to face him again.

"I'm sorry I stabbed your man."

He shook his head, slowly. "I'll kill him next time."

She turned away, smiling, laughing softly. The feeling of pride at having made her smile bloomed in his chest. Still.

"I'm not joking-I'm serious. You are my Countess-"

"Oh, but I'm not really." She mumbled.

"Pardon?" His voice was sharp, and made her look over at him again.

"I mean. Only in the most literal sense. I'm a causality. You have my money, and so I'm just... here." The wine had opened a tap of honesty in her, and made it hard for her to care about consequences.

 

He propped himself up. "If you are looking to land yourself in some very deep trouble, you're heading down the right path. I will make the merciful choice to forgive you just this once, but don't you EVER," he gripped her chin tight between his fingers, forcing her to look at his burning eyes, "don't you EVER forget that you are mine." His voice dripped with jealousy.

 

He hadn’t thought about how close they were until she laughed, the sound piercing him,

"For such a self-proclaimed man, you really are easy to intimidate."

Gently, her arms lolled around his shoulders, pulling him the very short distance until she was kissing him again, a heavy sigh leaving her. Waiting to see what would happen, he brought his hand to her waist as he kissed her back, both elated and livid. She really shouldn’t be speaking to him with such disrespect. But then again, if she was going to let him lay her out and kiss her, she could speak to him whatever way she pleased.

Sighing, she let go, pulling away. They sat in silence, her breathing heavily, him splutteringly trying to think of the right thing to say. Right when he thought she might have drifted off to sleep, she spoke up. "You know, you're very warm for such a scraggly man, is that why you drink so much?"

"Excuse me?" He raised his eyebrow, taken aback.

She muttered something back, barely conscience, slipping an arm over his chest as she pulled herself close to his side. He kept his hand raised, confused and unsure, but she was already asleep, leaving him irritatingly and infuriatingly turned on. He gathered the blankets about them, leaving her to sleep in peace.

Chapter Text

When she awoke, her head was on his chest. She rubbed at her eyes. Her head ached dully, and she groaned under her breath. "Yeah, that happens." He pinched the bridge of his nose. She startled up, hitting him in the ribs with her elbow. "Ow, god!" He winced.
"Oh shit, I'm sorry!" She raised her hand to help him.
"Watch your language." He inhaled sharply through his teeth.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to!"

He clicked his tongue, squinting open his eyes to look over at her. Her hair was mussed, and fell over her shoulder. The silk shirt had been pulled to the side in her sleep so that her slender collar bone poked through. The neckline was shifted, exposing the soft skin of her clavicle and the top of her left breast. He groaned and laid his head back down. She looked down, and flustered, clutched the open shirt closed. Her hands were covered by the length of the sleeves. He smiled, laughing at the sound of her gasp, still covering his eyes. "Don't worry, I hardly care."

"Really?" She raised an eyebrow.
"No." He sighed. "You're a very attractive woman."
She froze, unsure how to react.
"Are you surprised? That is my silk shirt you're wearing, after all. Surely you must have figured out by now that I am a man of finer tastes."
She fiddled with the buttons, pausing. "It is a nice shirt."
He smiled, grunting his reply before pushing himself up and off the bed.
"I'll go put on the coffee."

It was going to be a long day. He had a meeting with his cast of ne'er do wells, no pun intended, which meant she was busy cleaning the house so that assorted dirty people could ruin it again.
It was an important meeting, she knew that much. She was never allowed enough information to know what they were really about. She was permitted into the room occasionally as suited his whims to appear as his trophy wife, in perhaps the most literal of ways. Mostly she was expected to stay out of their way. She didn't mind that. Their hushed voices behind closed doors was much preferable to their loud nights of drinking.

She scrubbed at the floors of the kitchen, hearing the rising notes of their voices in the other room as they plotted away. She didn't mind the manual labor too much. It was easy, repetitive work, and it allowed her mind to wander. In fact, she was just now so in thought, inventing a scrubbing machine, that she didn't notice when a man stole into the room and quietly stood behind her. She stood up to get to the sink and gasped, startled at the unexpected intruder. He leered at her.

"Didn't mean to scare you, Countess." He spat the word, emphasizing his distain. It was the squat man from a few nights before. He stepped closer to her, cornering her against the counter. He wasn't much taller than she was, but he was large and overwhelmed her small frame. Her heart quickened.

"I'm sorry, I didn't see you there. Does Olaf need something?"
He clicked his tongue, shaking his head.
"With a pretty bird like you, what man could ask for anything more?"

She reached behind herself slowly, feeling the counter for the cloth-wrapped glass shards she had abandoned there a few nights before. Her hand fumbled behind her, feeling for it. He stepped closer.
"If you don't need anything, I should be getting back to my work."

"If you ask me, you're a bit of a wasted potential. If you were my girl, you wouldn't have time to spend dittering about the kitchen." He stepped in close enough that she could smell his breath. "Nah, we'd be far too busy seeing about getting those footprints on the ceiling."
Just as she found the cloth, he grabbed her, covering her mouth, poking her in the gut with something that felt suspiciously like a knife.
"Come on now, it's no secret you're not exactly in the running for happiest bride of the year, so let's see if I can't do something about that for you. It'll be our little secret."
Panicked, she swung her arm at him, hitting him in the head with the glass. The knife, which she could now clearly see was a knife, sliced at her abdomen, tearing her dress.
"You awful bitch!"
Now he was angry, and before she could escape, he grabbed her by the back of her dress and threw her to the floor. Pressing his hand again to her mouth, he straddled her, using his other hand to fumble at the clasp on his belt. She hit at him, but his hand covered both her nose and mouth, and the burning in her lungs was growing. Hateful tears began streaming down her face. She hated crying, she hated this weakness, she hated him.

Just as quickly, there was a loud crack, and he slumped over her with a great clatter. She gasped heavily, forcing the air back into her lungs. Olaf stood above her, the top half of what used to be a wine bottle in his hand. The other half was shattered all across the floor, the wine itself covering her and her attacker in a puddle. Fire burned in his eyes.
"We came to see if lunch is ready."
He dropped the still intact bottle half to the floor.
"Looking at the evidence, I'm assuming not."
She looked around herself, surrounded by shards of glass, the unconscious or perhaps dead man laying across her knees. The few members who had followed him in hoisted up her attacker, carrying him off.
Finally, only her husband remained, standing above her. She froze, trying to process everything that had happened. She began to sob warm salty tears, covering her face in embarrassment and shame. Her cries racked her body, echoed against every hollow inside of her, drowned her insides.

He stood there, unsure what to do. A large part of him wanted to go kick a few ribs in. He has been undermined in such a heinous way, all punishment was too merciful. But as his wife continued to cry, that protective instinct tugged at him again. "Come on." He lifted her by an arm, and placing a hand behind her, guided her up the stairs and into the master bathroom. She continued to weep, outsized tears falling from between her fingers. He began to draw a bath. "Come along, do as you're told." His tone wasn't particularly kind, but he kept it even and calm. He pulled the wet dress above her head, leaving her in a stained white slip. Only then did he notice the puncture mark on her abdomen, just above the left hip, staining the white fabric with blood. He sat her on the edge of the tub and attempted to lift the fabric. She squeaked in resistance, batting his hands away. He raised his arms in surrender. "I just want to check the wound. Besides, I'm your husband. It hardly counts."
She gazed at him for a few moments longer with tear-brimmed eyes before nodding softly, and then sniffling, lifted the hem just high enough to expose the cut. It was wider than it was deep, about three inches across but no more than a shallow graze. He clicked his tongue. "I've seen much much worse. It'll heal within the day practically. Hardly scar material." She pulled her slip back down, tugging it to her knees, embarrassed. "Take a bath. Hot water will do you good." He stood up, closing the door behind him as he left. He leaned against it, face in his hands, exhausted, but only for a moment before pushing off the doorframe and striding down the hall. Entering the kitchen, he surveyed the damage. Nothing too bad. Lots of glass, but the house had seen worse. He kicked at the broken bottle, and then noticed her hair ribbon, soaking up wine off the floor. Walking softly, he went to the sink and rinsed it in the tap water. He ran it between his fingers, feeling the faux silk finish. Grabbing his decanter, he poured himself a shot of whisky, quickly swallowed it, and then poured another. He held it in his hand, looking at it through the sunlight streaming through the window. Outside, he heard muffled thuds. Best not to get his hands dirty yet, no matter how badly he wanted to. He began to pick the glass shards off the floor.
By the time he went back upstairs, she was sitting on the edge of the bed in his robe. Her arms were crossed tightly. He strode over to her softly, handing her the whisky. "Here, drink this."
As she clutched it in both hands, he went behind her and tied the ribbon in her hair. She didn't move.
He watched her for a few seconds more, and then quietly, got off the bed. Leaving the room, he shut the door softly behind him.

It was time to break some ribs.

Chapter Text

She slept fitfully against the crook of his body, simultaneously wanting to be held tightly and not to be touched.

"If you don't stop kicking me, I swear, I'm pushing you onto the floor." He muttered.
She turned, surprised he was awake. "Sorry, I'm sorry, I just..." she sat up. She didn't like the feeling of helpless fear. It was one she ought to be quite used to. That never made it any easier.
Groaning, he sat up too. "What time even is it?"
"Early. Go back to sleep."
"Too late, I'm up now." That was a lie. He could very easily go back to sleep, but as she sat there, knees clutched to her chest in the moonlight, she looked so very pitiful, her face wrinkled with her anxious thoughts, even his heart had to reluctantly swoon. He sighed deeply.

"From now on, I won't leave you alone, okay? You are my bride, mine. I'll keep you safe from those slimy idiots. Now will you please go to sleep?" He dropped back down. She didn't move.
He sighed again, dejectedly. "Here, come here." He opened his arms to her. She looked at him warily. "Damn it, I'm not going to do anything, will you just lie the fuck down and stay still?" Hesitantly, she lay back down beside him. As he wrapped his arm around her, she snuggled into his side, her head resting on his shoulder. She was quiet for a few blissful seconds.

"Four years is a long honeymoon."

"Hmm?" He had already begun drifting off to sleep again.
"I said, four years is a long honeymoon."
"Mm, yes it is." He muttered back.
"I mean, not that it's necessarily a honeymoon, I just mean to say that it is-"
"Okay, okay, yeah, where are you going with this? Say your piece and go to sleep."
"...Thank you. That's, that's all I wanted to say." she pressed her head back down onto him.
"You're my goddamn wife. Now hush. You're safe. From everyone but yourself at least."
There was a pause before she very very softly leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. By the time he had a chance to react, she was already against his side again, breathing deeply. He waited a few minutes more to make sure she was actually asleep, and then kissed her forehead, soft enough that she wouldn't wake. As he lay back down he scrunched his nose. Affection was revolting.

...

When she went down the next morning there was a sliced apple waiting for her beside her coffee. She crinkled her nose, confused, looking up at him.
"Did I do something I forgot about last night?"
He threw his hands in the air. "Unbelievable. No matter what I do! I'll be more courteous from now on and not make you breakfast."
She smiled, looking down so he wouldn't see. She walked into the kitchen to get some water.

"Oh, you already cleaned the floor."
"Yes? There was glass all over it." Was she really surprised that he didn't want to walk over broken glass every day?
She looked up at him with a small smile. "Thank you."
Her reaction exploded against the back of his ribs, cascading down like thousands of feathers. He opened the paper, covering his face, letting out a single deep grunt.

"Perhaps I am not as vile and disgusting as you always seem to insist upon."
She shook her head, pulling the glass down from the shelf, "You're the one who insists upon it."
"My mistake. I'll ration my humanity from now on."
She sat down at the table, sipping her coffee. "Do you need me to pick up anything before the meeting tonight?"
He cleared his throat, not looking up from his paper.

"No I, I actually cancelled it."
She looked up at him, surprised. "Why? I thought you still had a lot to finish?"
He paused, calculating his words. "I... I figured you could use a day off."
She put her cup down, pausing quietly before sighing. "I'm fine." He lowered his paper, gazing at her accusatorially. "Really."

He sighed, folding the paper on the table. "It can wait. I'm a busy man- I can afford a delayed meeting, but heaven knows when I'll find time to pick up a new wife."
She smiled despite herself, looking down. "In a similar vein, you should eat. You're tiny, you'll wither away to nothing." He unfolded the paper again, resuming his reading. She lifted a piece of the apple to her lips softly, smiling.

When he found her again, she was curled in the bed with a book. He knocked on the door softly before coming in. She looked up.
"I wanted to check on you."
She closed the book, marking her spot with a finger. "I'm fine, do you need something?"
"Yes, actually. Can I," he gestured towards her with one finger, "can I take a look at the wound?"
She raised an eyebrow. "You said yesterday it seemed fine."
"Yes, but that was yesterday. Can I see it?" He lifted his hands in the air. "I just want to check."
She looked at him quietly, before nodding softly. "Okay."
She moved to the edge of the bed, dangling her legs over. Carefully, she rolled her dress up at the hem, pulling at the elastic of her slip.
He kneeled down in front of her, gently placing his hands on her hips, peering at the injury carefully.

She did her best to keep her breathing shallow. She felt so awkward, as if she were on the wrong end of her own microscope. Nervously, she watched his face. He stared intently, his eyes flicking about.
"Is everything okay?"
"Hmm?" He lifted his head up. "Oh, yes, everything's fine."
"Okay, good." She smiled down at him lightly.
He kept his hands on her hips, not breaking sight with her eyes. She didn't move. His eyes flicked to her lips and back again. Softly, she dropped the hem of her dress. He blinked once, then softly removed his hands, resting them on the bed beside her. Swiftly he looked away, and turning his head, moved to stand up.

She caught him by the neck, surprising both herself and him. He paused, still half crouched, looking at her.
Gently, she pulled him towards herself, kissing him softly on the lips.
"For the coffee,” she looked down.
"Is that so?" He muttered, purring. "Nothing more?"
She glanced back up at him, "Just the coffee."
"No thanks for breakfast? Or the expert medical advice?"
Smiling, laughing quietly, she looked away again, "Sorry, just the coffee."
"Then why are you still holding my jacket?" Not having realized, she paused, relaxing her knuckles. Leaning in, he kissed her, lightly. When he pulled back, her eyelashes fluttered, "Well then. That's because you wanted to but didn’t have the nerve.”
“I have plenty of nerve.”
“Oh, you do?” he smirked, trying to hide the bubbling sensation in his chest from being so close to her. “Where is it then?”
“I don’t owe you anything, you know.”
“I’m well aware. Don’t confuse my desires with your own, Countess.” Still smiling, he kissed her again. After a moment, she kissed him back, her soft lips pressing to his, more arguing than seducing, but it was all the same in the end. He would drown in her anger if she let him. Slowly, he brought a hand down from her face, tracing it over her side, down to her hips. She didn’t rebuke him, shivering at the sensation, and so he pushed his luck a bit further, bringing his hand to her upper thigh. He could feel her knees press tighter to his sides, her fingers uncomfortably firm against his face. Tenderly, with much more restraint than he would have thought himself capable of, he removed his lips from hers, brushing a kiss against her cheek before slowly working his way to the crook of her neck, pressing a heartier kiss to her jaw. Her knees tightened against him again rebukingly.
“Relax,” he muttered, trying not to sound off-put, “I won’t do anything indecent.”
“You are indecent.”
“Oh am I?” Pulling back, he smirked, careful to let his hands trail over her hips more slowly than was strictly necessary. “In that case, let me be the first to preserve your nobility.” He tried to pull back unenthusiastically, delighted when her hands didn’t leave his shoulders. “Poor little Violet, lamb in the lion’s den.”
“You overestimate yourself.”
“Oh, do I? Then I suppose there’s no harm in it, after all.” Kissing beneath her jaw, he tilted her head away to more easily cover the expanse of her throat. “I would so hate to be your undoing. Imagine, good and noble Violet, giving in to such treachery. It’s unthinkable.” In all truth, it was very easy to think about. As a matter of fact, he thought about it quite often, usually when alone, sometimes in the shower.
“Can’t you be terrible some other time?”
“My mistake, I didn’t realize I was interrupting something important.”
“Not being around you is very important to me.”
“Well then, I’ll let you get back to it.”

Straightening up slowly, he left the room, leaving her to her book.
It was five minutes before she opened it again, but she couldn't read a single word.

Chapter Text

"I've moved some things into the room, I hope you don't mind."

He looked up at her from across the table. She continued to stare into her plate, obviously trying to keep her tone blasé.
"Oh? Is my bed overridden with saws now?"
"No, I just moved some clothes and small things." She batted the words away with her hand. "Just for the time being. For convenience."
"Ah. Convenience. Of course." He lifted his cup to hide his smirk. She pretended not to notice.

She put her fork down. "I actually have a favor to ask you."
He looked up at her, eyebrow raised. "Almost anything for my Countess."
"I... was hoping," she flushed, looking down, "do you think... could you take a look at my cut again?"
"It was fine yesterday. It's hardly anything to worry about."
"Yes, but..." she paused, hesitant. "I don't, I don't think it's healing. And seeing as you probably have more experience with knife wounds than me."
"Granted, I'm usually on the other side of it, but alright." He walked over to her.
"Oh, I didn't mean right now, it can wait-"
"No no, no time like the present."
Lifting her up, he boosted her onto the table so that she was sitting on the edge.
"But first," he held a single finger up, "you must do something for me."
Her stomach tingled anxiously. "Yes?"
He smiled wickedly. "You must tell me I am a handsome and dashing man."
She raised an eyebrow surprised. "Er, okay. You are a-"
"And mean it." He added.
She sighed.
"You are a handsome and dashing man."
He looked at her meaningfully.
"And I mean it."
He smiled victoriously, "Alright then, let's take a look."
Gently he lifted the hem of her dress just high enough to expose the injury. She took the fabric, holding it in place as he moved his hands to her abdomen. His long fingers were warm from gripping his cup. He studied her closely. "Well it is red, but that's just from bruising. You'll be fine. Give it a few days."
"Are you sure?" There was a nervous crinkle between her eyebrows. "I don't exactly trust him to have not given me tetanus."
"There were too many negatives in that sentence, I have no idea what you just said," he whispered, still eye level with the wound, "but you have nothing to worry about. You're just fine." He rested his hand on her thigh absentmindedly, his other placed on the curve of her waist, just below her ribcage. She breathed out softly. He trailed his thumb above the cut, softly pressing in. Her breath hitched.
"Did that hurt?"
"No." She blushed.
His eyes flicked up to her face quickly before returning to her side. Her stomach flipped, releasing its butterflies which fluttered down, landing just below her hips. She hoped her blush hadn't spread to the rest of her body.
"How about this?"
"Ow! Okay, yeah that hurts." She shifted back, away from the pressure as he pushed into the edge of the injury.
"Sorry. Does this?" He ran his finger a bit beneath it. She flinched.
"A little."
"Does this?" He ran his finger across her hip bone. A volcano inside her rumbled, threatening to erupt. She paused.
"Yes."
He looked up at her quizzically.
"Okay... does this hurt?" Gently, he hitched a finger beneath the elastic of her waistband, pushing his finger against her skin.
She breathed in sharply. He looked up at her, concerned.
"That hurts?"
"Yes. I mean, no. No it's, it's fine."
He tilted his head accusingly. "If it hurts, you need to let me know. There might be something wrong. Here, one moment."

He slipped his hand behind her back, holding onto her hip with his thumb. Tracing his index and middle finger to the space behind the injury, he pressed into her back. "Does that hurt?" Her knuckles gripped the table. She looked away so that he wouldn't see the creeping redness on her face.
"No, that's fine, it's good."
The realization dawned on him slowly. It took every inch of his acting talent to not break out into a wide, wicked toothy grin. He looked back down casually. "Okay, good. Here, just let me check this again." He slipped his hand back to the front of her stomach, running his nails over her skin. He felt her shiver. Gently, he brought his hand to rest on her hip. Gripping her thigh tight with his other hand, he tucked his first two fingers into her waistband and ran his fingertips across the tender skin, trailing his nails lightly across the skin.
She swallowed hard and coughed, covering her mouth with her fist and looking away. "Yes, that's um, that's fine."
"And this?"
He pressed his thumb into the soft skin beside her bone, digging his nails in a bit as he held her tight.
"Yeah, still good." Her voice was just a bit too high pitched.
"Alright, good." He began to trace small circles in the skin of her thigh with the pad of his thumb. "Now if that's all that you need..." he looked up at her as innocently as he could manage. She cleared her throat again, looking away.
"Yes, that's um. Thank you."
"My pleasure." His voice dripped with syrupy sweetness. Leaning in, he pressed a light kiss to her lips and was pleased to feel her muscles tense as she shivered. "Anything for my Countess." Straightening up, he stood between her knees, keeping his hands on her upper thighs, “Are you sure there’s nothing else I can do for you?”
“Nope, I’m- I’m good.”
“Because you know,” he leaned in until he could feel her nervous breath on his lips, “I’m always willing to give you a more thorough examination.”
“You’re- No. No, I’m fine.”
“Hmm, are you sure?” leaving barely a hair’s breadth between their lips, he paused, wanting her to close the gap this time. “You seem awfully tightly wound,” unable to resist the desire to tease her just a bit further, he smirked. “Something troubling you? Let me help.”
“No thanks.”
“Come now; what else am I here for if not to dote upon my darling wife?” He felt her legs flex and stiffen as he ran his hands down to her knees.
“So chivalrous now?”
“Aren’t I always?”
“Not always,” the words were harsh, but she kissed him as she said it, trying to play it off nonchalantly. That charade, however, was given over almost as quickly as it started, her very bones betraying her with the gentle arch of her back, point of her toes. Reciprocating, he began to slowly work his hands up her legs, not caring at all when they accidentally tucked beneath the hem of her skirt. She froze momentarily and he paused, not wanting to upset her, but when she failed to rebuke him he simply decided to let it be, leaving his hands where they rested.
Her own hands smoothed over his collar, fidgeting with his lapel. Unable to help himself, he tried and failed not to imagine her fingers undoing his buttons, touching his bare skin.
Pushing his luck just a bit further, he moved to her neck, slowly, as he had done the last time. Gradually, he moved down her throat, kissing soft pink blossoms onto her skin. Her grip about him tightened, her fingers tense as ever so slowly, he inched his hands up, brushing at her outer thighs until his hands rested on her waist, enchanted with the knowledge of how little fabric remained between them. Feeling emboldened, he let his tongue slide against the hollow beneath her ear, and then, it happened.
A whimpering cry came up from her throat, curling out beneath her teeth as a moan. Immediately, she froze, her hands tensing starkly.
Pulling her hem tightly against her legs, she stood up quickly and turned to leave, “Yes, well, I have to go, goodbye.”
As she walked out the door, he called after her, "Don't forget that we have company tonight."
"Yes, of course." She replied from the next room over, her voice still just a note too high. Gratified, he slunk back into his chair, smiling, pleased.

Chapter Text

They didn't touch her so much anymore. Granted, every time she entered a room, she was greeted with a chorus of wolf whistles, but since her doting husband saw those as compliments, she doubted that would change anytime soon. Still, she was grateful for the small reprise from hands. Little blessings were still blessings. And yet, she felt an unfamiliar unhappy sort of gnawing in her stomach. She pushed it away, deciding to focus on her work, to get through the evening and get to bed. As she walked past her husband with a tray of plates, he caught her by the wrist. She turned, imagining she was in trouble.
"You've put your hair up."
She stared at him, waiting. "Yes."
"It looks good, I like it. Shows off your face so much better." He tucked a stray strand behind her ear. She blushed, ducking her head down.
"So you've said."
As she made her way back into the kitchen, a few of the women frowned at her. She kept her head down.
It seems she wasn't the only one who had been affected by the events of the last meeting. They had eaten up his feat of bravery, his chivalrous decision to not allow his wife to become the victim of yet another violent crime thrilling them, she thought bitterly. As she reentered the room, two of the women were rubbing his shoulders, crooning in his ears. And he was smiling triumphantly, glad for the attention. Resentment burned within her. It wasn't that she wanted him for herself, but if she was going to have to suffer through this marriage, he could damn well act married. At the very least he could act less interested.
She had only looked down for a second, stopping to clean a spill off the floor, but when she looked up again, one of the ladies was pulled him away by the lapel of his shirt, down the hall, away from the troop. Seeing them disappear, Violet stood angrily, throwing down her rag to follow them. If she had to be miserable so would they.

"You're just sooooo brave," the scrawny woman looked up at him from under batted eyelashes, "such a manly man, so tough and manly." Her long earrings clinked against her exposed collarbone. She ran her hands up his chest to his neck.
"Are you trying to seduce me?" There was a smile in his voice.
"Oh, I'm not trying to do anything." She stepped closer, tilting her head up toward him.
"Because if you are, I regret to inform you that I have never once been seduced. Never." She frowned before smiling coyly. "Well, there is a first time for everything, yes?"
"There's the problem. As a master of seduction myself, it is boring to see a game poorly played by others. Leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Kills all the fun. I'd much rather be the one setting the fire than putting it out. No, I am sorry, you are just going to have to wait and see if one day you are lucky enough that I decide to seduce you."
She raised an eyebrow questioningly. "You're kidding, right?"
He squared his shoulders, offended. "I am a very handsome man. If I were to take up every proffered seduction, I'd hardly have time to do anything else."

Right as she wrinkled her nose in disappointment, Violet rounded the corner.
"Oh, there you are. I was looking for you. My Husband. Who married me. And took oaths when you married me. There you are. In the hall. Of the house that we share. Because we are married."
The strange woman pushed off him, walking away in a huff, glaring daggers at Violet as she went.
Olaf watched her go, before looking down at his wife with a cocked eyebrow.
"You were looking for me?"
"Yes, I-"
"Are you sure you weren't looking for some better acting skills?" His voice was filled with sarcasm.

She was glad he couldn't see her face flush in the dim light. "Yes. I mean no. I needed to find you to-"
He leaned against the wall, folding his arms across his chest. "To spy on me?"
"No!"
"To follow me in order to spy on me?"
"No, I came to remind you that you are a married man, and really ought to begin conducting yourself as such." She held her chin out defiantly.
He looked at her in surprise for a second, before laughing, amused.
"So, you followed me in order to spy on me because… you got jealous?"
"God no." She screwed up her face angrily.
He clicked his tongue in mock warning, smiling. "Careful, people might start to think you're actually fond of your husband."
"You know what, forget it, fuck you." She turned to walk away, but he caught her by the wrist.

He laughed, a single breathy chuckle, before lifting her hand to his lips to kiss it softly.
"My Countess, my one and only." Her breath hitched, but her face stayed fixed in a scowl. He paused, then kissed her again on the gentle insides of her wrist. "No need for all that, you know the only person I could ever have eyes for is you." She hummed a staccato note in response. He smiled slyly, beginning a soft trail of kisses up her arm.
Her breath grew shakier with each one, but she didn't pull away. A warm rumbling spread from the base of her spine down through her legs, curling her toes inside her shoes. He kissed his way up her shoulder, his one hand still holding her arm outstretched. His other snaked behind her, gripping her tightly by the hips, pulling her so that he was holding her back pressed against his chest. He paused at the base of her soft neck, nipping lightly at the skin, pleased to note the soft breath she gave in reply.
"Violet?" He muttered, his lips pressed to her skin.
"Yes, I'm here." Her answer was curt and breathy.
"There's no need to smash me over the head with a pile of broken glass, just so you know." She didn't reply. "Although if you didn't want to stop... who could blame you, really?" She groaned as way of reply but didn't push him away. He rolled his words, breathing them against her skin. "It's hardly a secret that you feel it too. I am, after all, both handsome
and dashing, a renowned lover and talented actor-"
"Not to mention super humble." She muttered.
Spinning her quickly, he pressed her to the wall. She grabbed at his shoulders, trying to keep her balance.
"Do you want to say that to my face, Dearest?" he rocked his weight into her. He let out a low, smiling growl as she inhaled sharply.
"I said," she looked up, up, up to meet his eyes, "not. To mention. Humble."
She annunciated each word, spitting them between her teeth. He tightened his jaw.
Her voice lilt-ed sarcastically.
"Need me to explain? See, the joke is, your ego is so implausibly large-"
A wicked, slow smile stole across his face, "Oh?" his voice dripping with innocence. "Do you really think all reports of my greatness have been so grossly exaggerated?”
“I have no doubt.”
“Care to find out?”
“I have absolutely no desire whatsoever.”
“So, if I were to do this," he rocked his leg between her thighs, pulling her up and pressing her into the wall, "it wouldn't do anything for you?"
Her ears and nose flushed red, but to her credit, her expression didn't change.
"Nothing at all."
He lifted his eyebrow in mock understanding. "Oh, I see. So if, for example, I were to do something like this," he grabbed her at the back of her thighs, lifting her so that she rested on his waist, his long fingers pressing into her, "you wouldn't even notice?"
She swallowed. "Not a thing."
He purred, frowning. "Then I suppose this is right out of the question?" Rocking her back against the wall, he pressed himself against her, lips pulling at the tender skin along her jawline. She gasped, and reflexively grabbed at him to keep from falling. Carefully, he lifted one hand to her face. Hungrily, pausing only long enough to see the surprise in her eyes, he kissed her on the lips, forcefully. Tightening her grip, she kissed him back, a familiar whimper building in the back of her throat as he traced the outline of her teeth with his tongue, all the while pressing himself into her, feeling the warmth between her legs and behind her lips as she gripped tightly at him.

For a man of his frame he was surprisingly strong. She gasped as the sensations rushed into her, the pounding warmth against her, spreading into her bones. He took the chance of her open mouth to glide his tongue against the back of her teeth, sliding it into her mouth. The sensation sent shivers down her spine, sparked against her lips, made her wish his hands weren’t quite so busy. Wonderfully certain, he pressed himself against her, the joint of her hips suddenly feeling entirely too untouched as he rocked forward, making her uncomfortable aware of how much remained between them. Despite her own convictions, her body responded only to the warmth of him, him against her lips, between her legs. She wanted more of that warmth, more of that pressure. She wanted his hands touching all the quiet parts of her that now screamed for attention.
And then, all at once, he pulled back, slow enough that she didn't quite fall, but rather slid to the floor, a groggy look in her eyes.
"That's a shame, really. Guess I'll just need to figure something else out."
He strode out of the hall quickly, leaving her dazed on the floor.
Her heart pounded, head keeping time with a monotonous loop of "What just happened? What just happened?" even as her rushing blood chimed in with its own chorus of "oh yes, oh yes, oh yes!" leaving her bleary eyed and buzzing.

Chapter Text

She slipped back into the room shortly after him. The women moved back to resume caressing him, but she stepped in the way, plucking an empty wine bottle from the table. "Could you grab a new one from the kitchen, thank you very much." She handed it to the tall woman, all sweetness, using her best hostess voice.

The woman frowned warily, but complied. She took the moment to slip beside him, resting a hand on his shoulder. He smiled at her out of the corner of his eye victoriously, bragging, but damn it all if she was going to let him kiss her, run away, and then kiss some other strange woman.
He slid his hand across her back slowly before gripping her roughly and pulling her to him. She slid onto the arm of the chair, balancing her weight against him. Plucking his cup from his hand, she swallowed the end of the glass and turned to the indignant woman beside her, who had come back with the wine. She held the empty cup out to her. "Oh yes, please." The tall woman's eye twitched as she tried desperately to swallow her hatred.
Olaf practically purred. "My Countess."
She took a sip from the glass then handed it back to him. She felt powerful. The fact that she liked that made her uneasy. Her husband, on the other hand, had never been happier. He was practically humming with excitement and kept pulling at her hip, hoping to shift her into his lap. She wouldn't budge, though. She needed to win.

He had never been more attracted to a woman in his life. She was everything a man could ever dream of- and the dress she was wearing didn't help. The skirt was full and spilled out around her, falling over her knees like icing on a cupcake, pinching at the waist, making a sharp angle with her bust. The neckline drew across her collarbones, accentuating the pale glow of her skin. He noted with pride the spot of purple at the base of her neck. Good. Let them all know. He passed the glass back to her.

She pulled at the sweet wine, enjoying the way its taste sat on her tongue and lingered in her throat. Its mulled heat mixed with the fire in her belly. He was her husband, sure, but was this what she wanted? Was he what she wanted? Did she even have a choice? She took a larger swallow. She didn't know anymore. When she passed the glass back to him their fingers touched.

They were the picture of marital bliss, a true power couple. She wouldn't look at him, but he had kissed her and planned to do it again as soon as possible. It felt nice to be on the other side of jealousy- he found he didn't mind the wanting gazes so much when she was leaning on his shoulder. His Countess. His. As he took the glass from her, he kissed her hand. She shot him a warning glance to not press his luck. How adorable. He winked at her and she turned away.

His dinner parties, if you could call them that, were always so boring. She had no desire to speak to the guests, and though she would much rather sit in the corner by herself, she had cornered herself into protecting her husband's misery. Great. She watched him drink and felt her stomach tumble again. That was happening more often than she cared to admit. She brushed the hair back from her forehead. She didn't care for him-she couldn't- there was no way. But in a small, simmering, whispering part of her, she wanted him, and she couldn't pretend she didn’t. She grabbed the wine back from his hand.

He was surprised at her quickness. She snatched the cup away from him, swallowing the end of the glass in one gulp. God she was attractive. He shifted his attention away from her back to the table. What were they talking about? He leaned in, trying to pick up the conversation. It was still his duty to be a good host, no matter how beautiful the hostess may be.

She needed to find out- to figure out if it was simple curiosity or genuine desire tugging at her. It wouldn't be easy. She could only trick him into brushing against her so many times before he would notice. Not that any touch of hers ever went unnoticed- he grabbed any chance he had to, well, grab her. She needed him to need her in a calculated way, she needed to find out. She needed a plan.

Chapter Text

She had spent most of the night turning over her thoughts in her head. She didn't want to be alone with him when it happened- she risked it all happening too fast for her to seize control of. She needed others to be around- she needed him to be on his best behavior. Her thoughts tumbled around inside her as the guests left and she prepared for bed. Even as she lay down to sleep, they sat heavy on her chest.

He, on the other hand, spent most of the night trying to fight the urge to touch her. She had gone right to bed, changing quickly and tucking herself beneath the covers. He was disappointed- he had hoped that after the events in the hallway and having spent the evening kissing via wine glass... well, he had hoped. She was buzzing from the wine by the time they went upstairs to sleep; it wouldn't have been hard to convince her. In fact, he wouldn't have had to say much at all. But that wouldn't be enough. This was about winning, about watching her finally fall beneath him.
He watched her as she slept, her eyes flicking in her sleep, no doubt having vivid dreams from the alcohol. She was his wife. He found himself repeating that to himself more often lately. True, he had been saying it for four years now, but recently he found the emphasis placed on the word "wife." He traced his hand down her arm as she slept. She rolled closer to him, sighing deeply. His stomach caught in his throat. God damn it. He was fucked, and in the least literal way possible.

The next day she was quiet, lost in thought. She spent the entirety of the morning thinking.
He had a meeting that afternoon. It was perfect. She clutched her book tightly at the table, watching him as he read a script. He bit at the end of a pen, deep in thought. She sat quietly, studying him. His forehead crinkled as he read the papers he held. She watched his hands, his fingers long and thin. His lips were curled into a pensive frown.
“Something wrong Darling?" She startled, not realizing he had noticed her staring. "Do you need something, Countess?" His words were filled with sugar but his tone was distracted. "Or are you just enjoying the view?"
She almost abandoned the plan right there. But she needed to know.

She strode over to him softly.
"Just one small thing."
He looked up at her from his seat. The moment he turned his head, she caught his face in her hand, and holding his cheek, slipped her tongue against his teeth. As she felt his lips part with surprise, she pulled away looking at his face.
"For the coffee?" he whispered.
"No," she murmured, shaking her head, "just because I wanted to."

Growling hungrily, he pulled her into his lap. He began to kiss at her neck, but she pushed his chin back up to her lips. His hands grabbed at her back, pulling at the fabric of her dress, desperate for friction.
"Slow down," she held him away at arms length, not having expected him to get so excited.

He leaned back. "What do you need?" His eyes were wide. "Anything, name anything and you can have it." Well, not anything, he thought. But that was implied, yes?
"Just- just stay still"
Hesitantly, she leaned back in, kissing lightly at his upper lip. Pausing, she waited for his reaction. Letting out a shaky breath, he didn't move.

Softly, she kissed his lips again, feeling the sensation of his against hers, pushing back against her, not aggressively so much as engagingly, invitingly, his hands warm against her back. She could feel every joint of his clutching fingertips, the pressure of him fighting to pull her closer.
"You're allowed to move, you know,” she mumbled against his teeth.
"I don't want to scare off my flighty bird of a wife,” he whispered back, but began to eagerly nip at her lips. She laughed, raising a hand to cover her eyes.
"Okay. Alright. I… really don't know what I'm doing."
Gripping her wrist, he pulled it to his lips, kissing it softly, greedily, "Luckily I do."

Sliding his free hand to her hips, he pulled her closer to him. Still holding her arm, he steered her back to his lips, shifting, enjoying the friction between them. Slowly, he ran his hand up her body, feeling every muscle and bone beneath the skin as he began to kiss at the skin of her neck. She held him around his shoulders, keeping his rhythm as he moved over her throat, down her collar, to the soft skin of her shoulder. Wantingly, his hand rested upon her ribs, arching her towards him, still unsure where it would wander next. Deciding to take it slow, he traced it down the side of her body, rubbing small circles against her outer thigh, letting the pitch of her breath tell him what he was doing right. When he kissed her again, she opened her lips to him hesitantly, letting him slip his tongue between her teeth, his fingertips teasing the edge of her skirt. Not content to stay still for long, his other hand brushed at her ribs, circling behind her, cradling the small of her back.
“There we go. Is this okay?”
“That’s- That’s fine.”
“Just fine?” he frowned, mock disappointed. “Well then. May I?” His wandering hand came up to her chest, fingertips brushing at the base of her breasts.
“Don’t do anything hasty.”
“Oh Darling,” he practically purred, “I wouldn’t dream of it.”

His body was so incredibly warm against hers, so incredibly, incredibly warm. With more gentleness than she thought him capable of, his hand brushed to cover her breast, the fabric of her dress doing nothing to dispel the delicious pressure of his fingers as he pressed her forward by the small of her back, rolling his own hips upwards to catch her in a wonderful mix of sensation. She gasped despite herself, and she could feel him smiling against her open mouth. His hand tightened over her breast, dexterous fingers rubbing at the tender skin. Oh god. She wanted this. She really, really wanted this. She wanted to find out how every inch of her body could feel held under this new light- she was buzzing, she was levitating, she-
She felt a rising pressure being ground into her hip. She gasped, but he only held her tighter, pressing it against her. It both filled her with pride and terrified her to know she was responsible for it.
Groaning, he pressed a kiss to the hollow of her throat, “God, you’re such a pretty thing.”
“Pardon?”
“Don’t play coy,” pulling back, he smirked hungrily, his teeth looking very much like those of a famished wolf. All at once, she found she didn’t really mind the idea of being devoured if it meant such swelling bliss. The pleasure was intoxicating; it wiped her memory fuzzy, took away everything that wasn’t here and now. Gripping her waist steadily, he rocked his hips forward, eliciting a small whimper from her as the hardness of his arousal pressed to her leg. He was breathing heavily, digging his fingers into her, biting at her exposed skin. "Do you even know what you do to me, you goddamn minx?" he growled against her neck.
"Pardon me,” she hoped her voice didn’t sound half as nervous as she felt, “I happen to remember you very distinctly making remarks that you were immune to being seduced."
"So you WERE spying on me."
She shook her head, "Spying? Since when is reminding a man of his marital vows spying?"
He growled, leaning forward to kiss her again. "In any case, this hardly counts, as I clearly have seduced you first."

"Really?" He hated the teasingly quizzical tone in her voice. "Because I was actually considering leaving."
True to her word, she pushed off him before he could grab her and turned to leave the room. However, just then the door sprang open and members of the troop began to arrive.

Chapter Text

Impressively quickly, he caught her by the wrist and pulled her back into his lap. His breath evened immediately, and he engaged them as they entered as if nothing had happened. In fact, she would have sworn he hadn't noticed the last few minutes at all had it not been for the evidence she was being used to hide.

Unfortunately for him, hiding arousal with the person who had so kindly bestowed it was not the best plan he had ever concocted. And his wife. His small naive wife, who either had no idea how these things worked or was exceptionally cruel, because she really needed to not move so fucking much. He gripped her tight by the hips, trying to hold her in one place, attempting to nonchalantly drink from a nearby glass. Maybe it wasn’t too late for the liquor to help him. She scooted back and he nearly spat out his drink. Of all the awful things to do. She was a natural at heinous acts.

His troop were either blind or stupid. Most likely stupid. They all felt obligated to make cracks about her being in his lap as they entered. They had no idea. She did her best to remain composed. Well. She was finally going to sit in on a meeting, among other things.
However, she was disappointed to find the whole proceeding extremely dull. Her thoughts were very singular, making it exceedingly difficult to keep her mind occupied otherwise due to the length of the matters. Not to mention the members' tendency to go on at on, deeply hammering away at points over and over again until she could scream.
She steadied herself, resolving to pay attention. They were being extremely nondescript in their words, speaking in what seemed like code; while the sentences were grammatically correct, they made no sense to her. The man with half an ear leaned in to whisper about a "safe place" at one point, but as soon as she'd begun to catch the thread of the conversation, they'd switch topics seamlessly, leaving her perpetually five minutes behind.
His fingers digging into her didn't help either.

His only interest was in keeping the meeting short. There would be no drinking tonight, no revelry, no loud and arduous conversation. He needed his house empty.
His henchmen were nervous, talking circles around the topic in an effort to keep her out of the loop. They stumbled around their words as their eyes darted, trying to find inconspicuous ways to say the word "fire" that wouldn't draw her attention too closely. They still didn't trust her.
Right as he began to concoct a plan to bring the proceedings to a halt, his troop looked to him for the final word, drawing the meeting to a natural close. Shit. What were they talking about? He cleared his throat.
"I think the heart of the matter is that we must remember why we do what we do. Fame! Glory! Power! And of course lots of applause." They cheered his remarks before standing to reprise to the dining hall for drinks and food. As soon as the last man had left the room, slamming the door shut behind them, he spun her around so that she straddled his lap again, pulling her close to him. "You fucking vixen." He growled, leaning in to kiss her. She leaned back, smoothing his lapels.
"A wonderful performance, your best by far." She moved to stand. He grabbed her by the arm, holding her fast.
"Oh hell no, you do not escape that easy, not after what you just put me through."
Growling he pulled her back to him. She held him back.
"But your guests-"
He stood up, strode over to the large doors, and threw them open. His voice booming across the hall, he called out,
"Everybody leave, I want to fuck my wife." And for the first time, he noted, swelling with pride, he was actually going to get to.

A chorus of cheers rose as he shut the doors again, quickly gliding back over to where she was standing. Picking her up, he sat her on the table. Pulling her close again, he made a valiant effort to touch every inch of her at once. After all of the waiting, she was finally his.
"Wait, please!" She braced her hands against him, shrinking away. He pulled a few inches back, his breath still ragged.
"Yes? Is something wrong? What's wrong?"
"I don't know that I want this right now."
She was swallowing hard, afraid. The sight made his insides drop.

"Look at me,” he cupped her face, turning it towards himself, "I am not going to hurt you."
She shook her head softly, "How can you say such soft things? I don't understand. I don't get it." He watched her glistening eyes, hoping she wouldn't cry. Oh god, if she cried he would leave. "I don't, I don’t want this.”
“Okay. Then-”
“Or, rather, I don't want to want this. But I do, and it's confusing, and, I really, really don't know why this is happening or when it should stop, but something tells me it should have stopped a long time ago, so isn’t it too late to stop now or is it worse if I don’t stop at all, does it get worse the longer it goes on, or-"

“Damn, Violet,” he held a hand up, pausing her incessant stream of speech, “Breathe. There’s a very simple solution.”
“Simple? You think this is simple?”
He nodded sympathetically. "Quite. Have you considered not overthinking everything?"
"Oh yes, thank you for that wonderful insight,” she let out an exasperated sigh.
He shrugged, "I don't have anything new to tell you. Other than I'm here, and you're here, and if there's something you want to do about that," he rubbed a hand up her leg, "now's an opportune time."
She shook her head slowly. "I shouldn't thorough, right? I mean, the very fact that you're telling me it's a good idea ought to be a clear warning against it."
“I’m not in charge of what you should or shouldn’t do. Well, I mean, to a certain extent- but,” he waved the words away with a free hand. “It’s your call. But if I may put a argument forward…” gently, he slid his hands further up her thigh, enjoying the wanting shiver she gave in reply, “Why don’t you just figure out what… feels right? No pressure, no promises, just you, and me, and the opportunity for me to make you feel very, very good.” He looked down, watching his hands move further up her legs. "You're far too caught up in 'good' and 'bad' as strict concepts. The two aren't mutually exclusive. Don't punish yourself for your own inability to tell the difference."
She frowned, knitting her brow together. "I'm not sure that made sense."
"To be fair, neither do you."
She looked down at her lap, laughing a single breathy laugh before glancing up at him, "Do you always wax philosophical with people you're trying to seduce?"
"It depends," he murmured, leaning in. "Is it working?" She laughed, and instead of answering, placed a single nervous kiss on his lips.

Chapter Text

He placed, or rather, tossed her onto the bed. Catching herself on her elbows, she unsuccessfully tried to push herself up, having barely gotten her legs over the edge of the coarse red duvet when he stepped in the way, standing between her knees, holding her down by her hips. Leaning over so their eyes were level, he drank in the look on her face for a silent, heart-stopping moment, smiling gleefully, and then his lips were on her neck, teeth biting a bit too roughly, pinching at her exposed skin. She braced herself up against the bed with one arm, the other resting on his collarbone, caught between their bodies warningly, as if any moment now she was going to push him off. In all truth, she probably would have, had she not been so caught off guard by the swimming quickness of it all. His one hand snaked behind her waist as his lips continued to work at the exposed skin along her throat, the other hand pressing down into her hip. Steadily, he pulled her towards himself, rocking his erection against her, the intimidating stiffness pressed firm to her inner leg. She gasped, and he, smirking wickedly against her skin, took the quick opportunity to push his tongue into her mouth. She raised her other hand against his chest, bracing herself against his sudden looming weight. The feeling of his tongue against her teeth was still so foreign, and yet, part of her was curious as to what it could feel like, if she were to open her mouth just a little wider and invite him in. The implications of the thought shocked her, and she tried to suppress the bubbling feelings in her chest. She tried to shut her mouth, pulling away slightly, but he tightened his grip on her, and grinding his tented crotch against her again, elicited another soft gasp. She startled at the sensation, reflexively throwing her arm around his neck to catch herself. He pulled back just far enough for her to see his face and smiled at her wide eyes.

"Don't act so surprised that you like it. You're only human, and I am known to be a man of many talents,” he practically purred with satisfaction.

"I-" but there he was again, at her neck, and her words were cut off by another gasp.

"Ahh- try not to talk," he growled, evidently pleased with himself. "You'll ruin everything if you insist on thinking so much. Enjoy yourself," his voice changed to a smooth baritone, "after all, you are in expert hands." He punctuated the word “expert” by grabbing behind her ass and straightening up, lifting her in the air. She yelped, reflexively wrapping her legs around his waist. "There's a good girl,” he leered up at her, smiling. Feeling his words against her skin, she blushed, indignant.

"Fuck you."

He raised his eyebrow, surprised, pausing in his giddy moment, "Care to repeat that?"

Willing her voice not to crack, she tried desperately to maintain her nerve, "I said, fuck you."

He smiled devilishly, before moaning out a throaty purr. "My god, I'm already aroused, are you trying to kill me? Or have you really not noticed, and are genuinely extending the invitation?" He hitched his hands behind her, and still holding her, climbed into the center of the bed.

 

Laying her down, he pressed his lips against her pouting mouth, and sliding his hands across her, began to hum a contented note. It was finally here, the moment he had been waiting for. He slid one hand across her ribs, stretching out his fingers as if she were a piano he very much wanted to play, running his thumb beneath her breast. She swallowed a moan and blushed, turning her head to the side.

Pleased with her reaction to simple over-the-clothes petting, he smiled hungrily and began nipping at her jawline, "I saw that," he whispered, pressing his erection back down against her.

 

Her hips bucked automatically at the pressure, and deep in her belly a tingling heat grew. It spread across her spine, through her bones, and finally rested deliciously between her legs. The few layers of cloth between them was not nearly enough to dispel the creeping warmth of his body, creating a tugging urge within her to feel just how warm this icy man could be beneath his clothes. As if mimicking her thoughts, his hand slipped to her thigh, gliding beneath her dress, gripping it tight and lifting it up against him. She looked up at him, her arms wrapped about his neck, as he gazed down at her questioningly, his eyebrow cocked, looking from his hand to her face and back again, as if waiting for a rebuke.

"What, trying to remember where you hid the knife?" she sputtered.

He smiled down at her, the hungry spark back in his eyes.

"Can you really think so low of me?" he asked, mock hurt in his voice. "Does everything I do really need a selfish motive?"

"Historically speaking, yes."

"Well pardon me for trying to make sure my wife is enjoying herself."

"You say that as if it's a possibility." Her voice was shaking.

"Oh come now. If you aren’t having fun, just say so. You know I live to please. You haven't tried to kill me yet, at any rate. Murder goes both ways, darling. I'm simply trying to give you a last chance to make what would be an assuredly daring escape."

"What are you playing?" Her voice rang with accusation.

"Well, I assume you may find yourself somewhat... occupied in a few short moments, and wanted to give those pretty lips a last chance at any biting words you might have. It's reasonably hard to speak with another's tongue in your mouth, and even harder to run with your legs in the air."

She turned red, indignant at his suggestion even as he, her husband, lay between her legs.

"Forgive me for thinking of you and your... needs." He rolled the word "needs" behind his teeth, staring down at her, a crooked smile revealing his teeth.

She looked away from him, towards the barred window, seeing a few remnants of light pour through.

"For better or worse, right?,” she muttered.

"Oh truly it can't be all that bad," he smirked wickedly, still looking down at her, "I seemed to notice you didn't mind too horribly when I did this..." Leaning back into her, he kissed her neck as he brushed his hand at her ribs again, just below her breast, rubbing the pads of his fingers against her tender skin. She moaned and stretched into the touch before blushing and trying to pull away. "Uh uh uh." He nipped at her neck again. "Come on, now. Haven't you tired yourself out yet? All this pretense must be exhausting. If you're going to run, run. But if you're not..." his breath brushed the side of her face as he whispered close to her ear, "give yourself in, just for a moment."

She hummed against his touch noncommittally, "Says the arsonist."

He laughed at her sharp retort, sitting up far enough to look her in the eye, "I've always said I like them fiery."

And then his lips were on hers, the angle affording his tongue easy access to her mouth. To his and her surprise, her tongue pushed back, hesitantly, and then with conviction. His fingers reached for the front of her dress and anxiously began to pull at the buttons. She pulled back a bit, accidentally biting his tongue in the process.

"Alright, I'll go first,” he muttered. Truthfully there was not much left to do, as his shirt was already half undone in the name of fashion, but undoing the last few buttons, he tossed the garment to the floor. Slowly he leaned back down against her, slipping his tongue between her lips as one hand began undoing the buttons on his fly. He sighed in relief at the small amount of extra space afforded by the open waistband, but quickly compensated for it by pulling her closer to him. She gasped again at the hard feeling of his erection through her dress, and he laughed, low and quietly, nipping at her jawline. "Would you prefer if we just played strip-poker, the good old fashioned way?" Without thinking, her hands went to his neck, clutching him to her at the feeling of him rocking against her, causing him to laugh again. "Eager now, are we?"

"Try not to talk, you'll ruin everything."

He chuckled, but obeyed. With shaking fingers, she reached for the front of her dress, beginning to undo it before he caught her hand, “May I?”

“I- If you really want to.”

“Believe me. I want to.”

He really really wanted to, had been dreaming of this moment for ages. Steadier now, he undid the up-most button of her collar, waiting for her further prompting before continuing down, making quick work of it. Reluctantly, he withdrew himself from her neck long enough to questioningly tug at and then remove the dress. When she lay back down beneath him, he stayed propped upright, allowing himself an unabashed moment of staring, the expanse of her body laid out beneath him, only her formidable undergarments in the way. Usually by the time they had reached the bedroom, his partners had already removed them, and he found with a startled feeling that he had no idea how to neatly undo this rubik's cube of clothing. She swiveled herself beneath him, drawing his attention back to her face. She was flushed with ... exertion? Anxiety? Excitement? Her blank stare revealed nothing. "Oh sweet god." He whispered, pulling himself close to her again, no longer needing to force his tongue into her mouth but finding her open and ready, in more ways than one. The thought sent chills up his spine. His hand stretched across her body, exploring her even as his tongue mapped out the inside of her mouth. Gently, he slipped a finger beneath her waistline, tracing the small space between fabric and her too soft skin. She shivered into the touch, pulling him closer as she groaned softly; so softly, perhaps he would not have heard it had he not been literally on top of her. The feeling of his skin against hers was exhilarating. He rolled his hips against her, savoring every sensation of her thighs against his, her flushed skin against his naked chest, slowly becoming more and more aware of the inconvenience of his pants.

"Oh fuck." He moaned, teeth gritted, his face against hers.

Her hands slid down to his collarbone again, pushing him up far enough to speak face to face.

 

"I'm here. I'm ready." Her voice betrayed no hesitancy but still the butterflies swarmed in her stomach.

“You’re certain?”

“I’m ready. Let’s just… Let’s go. I’m ready.”

Looking down at her, he smiled wickedly, "No you're not." He drew the words out slowly, as if unsheathing a sword. "This is your first time, no?" Her face blushed, ironically, at the nature of the question. But before she could retort, he slipped down, kissing her stomach. She dejectedly let out a soft moan, missing the warm pressure of his body against hers. "No matter, let's get you ready, shall we? As I always say, ladies first."

"You've literally never said that before." She whispered, out of breath.

His shoulders lay between her legs. Grinning, he tugged at her underwear, running his fingers along her legs, kissing the insides of her thighs. She moaned, closing her eyes, enjoying the sensation. And then, suddenly, she gasped as his tongue slid against her. He held her down by her hips as she automatically tried to buck into the sensation, moaning, her back arching at the pleasure emanating from every part of her body now. It was a small pleasure, but it radiated, pulsed, demanded all of her attention be focused on the very good things he was doing, which she was certain must be very bad indeed. His tongue moved slick against her, pressing to her in ways even her own hands never did. The warm pressure was intoxicating, almost perfect in almost every way, meeting desires she hadn’t even known she had. Slowly, humming a note of victory, he slid a single finger inside her. She startled at the sensation, but as he began to build a rhythmic pace, found herself pressing down against him, wanting to meet his deep, kind thrusts. Whimpering, she rolled her hips down against his hand, every part of her wishing he would never stop.

"Oh, is that good for you?" He feigned sarcastic ignorance with wide, mocking eyes. "Did I do something right this time?" Throwing her arm over her eyes, she tried to focus only on the sensation. With a pinch, she felt his teeth nip at her inner thigh. “See? I know how to take care of you.” Slipped another pale finger inside of her, he took a moment before he began quickening the pace as she gasped in time to the thrusts, gripping the sheets. He rubbed against her again, leaning over and running his tongue along her, bringing her back to that pulsing, radiating need, urgent and alive within her. And then there were fireworks behind her eyes, earthquakes popping between her bones. The volcano in her chest erupted. She arched her back firmly against the bed before falling, breathing raggedly, back upon the covers, certain that much more of it would surely kill her.

He climbed back up over her, leaving soft kisses along her body in his wake.

"Good, very good. You know, victory tastes even sweeter than I dreamed,” he whispered, kissing her neck. She whimpered softly, still riding the aftershocks. "I told you, you are in very. Capable. Hands." With each accented word he placed a kiss along her neck, catching her legs and hitching them against his side once again. She hummed a low note, turning her head to the side, eyes still closed. "Oh, no no no." He smirked, his hands beginning again to softly glide across her body. "While I’m flattered, it’s not time for sleep just yet. We haven't even reached the main attraction." Opening her eyes and looking at him, she saw him leering only inches above her, his pants still uncomfortably tented, his knee between her legs.

"Time for strip poker?" she asked, still breathy.

He smiled. "You're goddamn right. Although," he eased against her, "I feel the need to reiterate that I have no plans to kill you regardless of tonight's outcome, just so you know."

"You wouldn't be able to if you tried."

"You underestimate me."

"No, you underestimate me." Holding him by the shoulders, she roughly pressed his lips to her own. Unintentionally or intentionally, her leg pressed against his stiff erection, forcing a moan from between his gritted teeth.

"Tell me, are you trying to ruin me or these pants?"

"Collateral damage is collateral damage."

His eyes flicked down her figure as he smiled deviously, "You are cruel."

"You would know about that- wouldn't you?"

She yelped as he pinched her just hard enough to make her loosen her grip, "You are mine, do you understand?"

 

She couldn't string together a response, his wandering fingers and lips eliciting gasps as he sought to mark every inch of her body, claiming his place as the first one along every part of her. Fumbling, his other hand tugged at his pants, trying to kick his legs free until the thin cotton of his briefs was the only thing remaining between his erection and her thigh. She clutched at him, trying to get closer, wrapping her legs around his waist to hold him against her. Fumbling, his hands began to clumsily make an attempt at her brassiere before she gently pushed him back. Sitting up, she slowly removed it herself, sliding the thin fabric over her shoulders and off her arms. He watched her hands out of his periphery, as she continued, her expression unchanging. There was a moment where he didn’t break eye contact, her still nervous face making him worried that if he were to move too quickly, he would frighten her. Leaning in slowly, he kissed her, fighting every selfish urge to look, demanding patience from himself in the name of the greater good. Gently, she lay back down, pulling him with her, and then, taking his hand in her shaking fingers, ever so slowly she guided him to her breast, only letting go with a gasp when he pressed firm against her, feeling her racing heart beneath his palm. Softly, he kissed her lips, her teeth parting to let his wandering tongue back in. He rubbed her soft skin in small circles with the pads of his thumb, eliciting wonderfully musical cries of pleasure. She was softer than he could have ever imagined, and to be finally claiming her as his wife stirred a roaring sense of pride in his chest.

“You know, I always knew I had good taste, but I must say,” he kissed her jaw, his voice low in his chest, “you, Countess, are exquisite.” Bringing his fingers back down to the peak of her thigh, he kissed his way over her collar, down to her chest, until he was reverently catching her breast in his mouth, his grateful tongue pressing down on the soft, satin skin. She rewarded him with a breathy gasp, her fingers tangling in his hair. Taking his time, he grazed over her with his teeth, leaving small purple roses in his wake, a freckling of bruises across her skin where he had mapped and conquered. Reluctantly, sensing her urgent impatience at his teasing, he made his way back up, kissing her lips again.

Fumbling, he used his free hand to slide off his briefs, discarding them with the other clothes upon the floor. She tried to hide her quick glance, but he caught it, smirking, amused. He kissed her lips again, first with a hungry passion, and then again softly.

“Always curious, aren’t we?”

“I didn’t-”

“Please, don’t get shy now. I’m well aware of the dashing figure I cut.”

She rolled her eyes, irritated at his antics, but she did look less abashedly. An enchanting blush colored her face, though he wasn’t certain if it was from embarrassment or plain exertion.

“Here,” Taking her hand, he drew it to his own waist, pulling her forward until she was kneeling, kissing him. Lacing his fingers above hers, he drew her touch over his hip, down to the base of his erection.

“I- Can I-”

“Darling, you can have whatever you want.” He shivered as her blissful fingers touched him, warm and lovely. Her nervousness almost boarded on fear, it was so palpable. Willing himself to maintain his composure, he kissed at the side of her face, hoping to hide his expression as she touched his cock, entirely unaware of the agony she was putting him through. Her warm palm slid beneath it as she gripped it, perhaps just a bit too firmly, her tough surrounding him. When she drew her hand back, he groaned, pressing his lips to her neck, feeling her shiver.

"So..." he whispered into her skin, "how do you feel about consummating this marriage?"

She took a breath in, exhaling it against him, "I'm here. I'm ready."

“Not to be completely oblivious, but is there any chance you’re on the pill?”

“I- No.”

“That’s what I thought.”

He pretended not to notice her stare as he took a moment to roll a condom on. She was his wife, after all. He couldn't risk giving her something- who knew where he'd been? Slowly, he pulled her into his lap, her thighs straddling his waist, his stiff erection now tense with anticipation.

She snaked her arms around his neck as he directed her hips with one hand, using the other to glide himself into her. As he entered her, she whimpered, biting her lip, her face pressed to his shoulder. He paused, taking a moment to allow her breathing to steady.

“You’re okay?”

She nodded quickly, humming a soft affirmation, “Yes, just… Slow.”

“Okay.”

Her fingers curled against his shoulders, and then she was nodding, urging him on. Pressing himself further in, he felt her shudder, her grip tightening about him. Shushing her softly, he kissed the side of her neck with a groan, “There we go, that’s good. That’s nice.” She whimpered, the sound tormenting him. With a painfully patient movement, he slid himself the rest of the way inside her as she groaned, her arms tight about his shoulders.

 

It wasn’t pain. No, it was… Strange. Not bad, only strange. A sensation of fullness. Awkward pressure that moved, pressed into her in some very new ways, ways which she did not object to at all. Slowly, he began to rock his hips against hers, still kissing her neck placatingly. She joined in the rhythm, allowing his free hand to wander her body greedily as she gripped him. The speed began to build as he breathed heavily, for once not ruining the moment with a biting quip. As she began to gasp in higher pitch at his thrusts, he moved his hands to her back, laying her down, still rocking inside her. She gasped at the new sensations provided by the positioning, his stiff erection pressing hard inside her, making her very aware of exactly how large he was.

“There we go… That’s good… Good girl,” she could hear his grit teeth in his voice. And then, his hand was wandering back to her inner thigh, slipping between her legs, and soon she was clawing his back to get closer to him as she heard the echoes of those fireworks growing closer once more.

 

He savored every inch of her skin against his, the smooth glide of bodies and heat. Finally, she cried out her second climax, and just the scene of her, her arched back and pert breasts, her tensing and tight fingers, and best of all, the look of novice surprise as another orgasm toppled through her, just the scene was enough to finally push him over the edge and he came, fast and hard. Panting, he fell beside her, facedown, on the bed, groaning in absolute exhaustion. Beside him, she lay curled on her side, riding out the last of the aftershocks, humming softly with each tingling wave. They lay like that for a long time, separate yet together, each on their own side. Finally, lazily, he flopped one arm over her, resting a hand upon her breast. She looked over at him quizzically.

"I'm cold."

Sighing, she turned so that she could face him. He opened one eye to peer at her.

"That's your own fault. The heating here is terrible. There has got to be a better way to heat this place. Let me take a look at it later, I'm sure I could figure something out."

"I'm sure you could too." He grumbled, sleepily. "Until then, you'll just have to make do with what you have."

"I wasn't the one who was complaining." Sighing, he turned his face towards her, meeting her eyes before glancing down at her still exposed body.

"You have some fantastic breasts, are you aware? Do your best not to lose them to hypothermia."

She scoffed at him loudly, but as she went to turn away, he draped his arm over her again.

"No, come back, come here." For such a scrawny man, he had a bit of strength in him, and easily pulled her towards himself so that they were spooning. Slowly, tiredly, he pulled the blanket over the two of them.

"I wouldn't have pegged you for a cuddler,” she remarked sharply.

He sighed. "I'm not. Simple science states that the best way to warm up is to lay naked next to another naked person. You should have known that." She rolled her eyes, which he didn't see, since his were already closed. "Besides," he snaked his arm across her, once again gripping her breast, “I don't want to risk losing your finer features."

She swatted at him, although she was really too tired to care about his insulting jabberings, and let the warm glow gently drift her off to sleep.

Chapter Text

When she awoke the next morning, he had already risen, the spot beside her in bed cold with his absence. She rolled over, staring at it, as if the rumpled blankets held the answers to all the questions spinning around in her head.

Softly, she pushed her legs over the edge of the bed, feeling the way her toes trailed across the floor. Something inside her ached. She still wasn't sure.

 

When she finally arrived in the kitchen, she was quiet, reserved. She sat down at the table as he slid a cup of coffee before her.

"I see the asking price has gone up."

He smiled, practically humming. "It hasn't. That being said, who am I to stop you from enthusiastically overpaying?"

She clutched the cup tightly, trying to heat her fingers.

He stood behind her, pausing a moment before tugging at the waist of her dress, retying the knot. "Try to keep up appearances; I have an image to maintain." She swatted his touch away. He paused, curling his fingers back into his hand.

"Yes? Is something wrong?"

She sighed, rubbing her temples with one of her hands.

"Yes. No. I, I don't know."

He moved to the seat beside her, leaning back.

"Fair enough."

They sat in awkward silence, both waiting for the other to speak. He broke first.

"So. What happened," he pressed a finger against the table, sliding it quickly between the two of them, "was it a one time thing?"

"I don't know." She muttered into her hand.

"Because if so, that's fine. That's... fine. One night stands happen. Usually not between husbands and wives, but..."

She laughed despite herself. He relaxed at the sound.

"God... this is so weird,” she whispered. "This is... SO weird."

 

He grunted, leaning back into his seat, sipping at his coffee.

"Can you please explain to me why I am constantly suffering under the idea that you are clever?" She glared at him, not responding. "I mean, for god's sake, do you REALLY need to overthink EVERYTHING?"

She placed her hand against the table, looking at him incredulously, "I hardly think this is overthinking. If anything-"

"Are you even capable of stopping?" He interrupted her. She clenched her jaw. "This is right, that is wrong, where does it end?" He opened his hands in exasperation.

"I wouldn't expect you to understand." She lifted her cup to her lips again.

"You're right, I don't understand. What are you so caught on?"

She glared at him but made no response.

"You're a married woman- you've BEEN a married woman. Is it really so horrible that you might find some happiness in that?"

She lowered her cup, still glaring. "Not with you."

"Fair. Okay, I deserved that. But for someone who insists on constantly thinking, you seem to be missing one extremely crucial point."

"That being?" Her voice was cold.

"You need to learn to be happy, regardless of your own moral consequences."

"You're despicable."

He leaned back, smiling. "And look how that's worked out for me."

 

Pushing back from the table, he left the room. She sighed, leaning into her hand. She hated being reminded that he wasn't an idiot. He was terrible, but he played it well.

She stared out the window, watching a small bird flit among the trees. She was here, that was an unchanging fact, now she just needed to decide what she was going to do about it.

He was right—wickedness hadn't exactly punished him, and every time she chose what she thought was noble path, it seemed to rend her heart in smaller and smaller pieces. Soon there may be nothing left of her. Perhaps there already wasn't. She stared down into her cup, hoping some oracle of coffee grains might reveal the answers, but those too only served as indifferent, muddied sources.

She would have to rely upon herself. Again.



Chapter Text

He watched her as she worked in the garden. She was an earnest girl, finding comfort in the identification and solution of problems. You could practically see the whirring of her mechanical mind as she fixated on whatever it was that needed solving- be it a contraption, a kitchen tile, or his own lips. He rubbed his chin pensively. She was clever, that was undoubtedly true.
She also didn't trust him. You only needed to spend a moment with her to see it. It clouded her brow, sparkled in her eye, rested on her teeth. And that made his victory all the sweeter.
He could never fully explain why he was so attracted to her. Anyone who saw her had to admit that she was beautiful. She was an unprecedented picture of loveliness, inspiring desire in the way she stepped, spoke, and sat. She carried herself like a loaded gun, and damnit if that wasn't the most erotic thing he'd ever seen. And yet it went beyond that. It poured over into a jealous protection- it wasn't enough that he had her, she had to be his. He needed her eyes to sparkle for him, her wit to snap at his remarks, her teeth to bite at his fingertips. He fancied her presence the same way others may fancy putting their hands in the lion's maw- he wanted to prove that he alone could escape unscathed. He wanted to tame the wild animal that only responded to fire. She was the crown jewel of his collection- the one part of his amassed wealth that he carried with him as trophy and prize, and he wanted everyone to know he owned her as such.
And perhaps because he distrusted her too.

 

She worked in the yard, digging her fingers into the deep soil, savoring the smell of the wet earth. She wiped her hand across her forehead, streaking it with dirt. The sky was overcast and grey, a comfortable chill in the air. She gathered the sizable pile of weeds in her arms, carrying it over to the compost pile she had started. During the summer she maintained a nice small garden, but with winter looming, the plants had all gone into hibernation, awaiting the spring. She stretched, feeling the snap of her joints, enjoying the freedom that came with her solitude.
She took great pride in the yard. Having decided years ago that if she was going to live here, she would at least make it tolerable, she had taken great pains to make the outdoor space beautiful once more. For weeks, her small room was filled with stacks of library books all relating to plant husbandry. She had taken the seeds from the food that she bought to cook, carefully planting and arranging them, giving them all great care and attention. Yes, she was proud of it. It was by no means a particularly notable yard, but for her it was welcoming, and that was enough.
She reentered the house, humming softly to herself. Kicking off her shoes in the doorway to avoid tracking in mud, she made her way through the kitchen to the entrance parlor, wiping her hands on a rag she plucked off the counter.
A note died in her mouth as she entered the room, seeing her husband's band of villains turn to stare at her. He looked up at her too, appraising her quickly, his eyebrow cocked.
She was suddenly very aware of the dirt on her dress, her grass stained knees feeling weak and knobby beneath the soiled hem. She quickly pulled her sleeves back down, hoping to hide her filthy forearms. She felt childish, walking about barefoot. Her face flushed with shame.
The group tittered, laughing at the spectacle she made. She looked down, embarrassed. The women smiled widest, whispering, rolling their shoulders back in pride. She wanted to die. Was she allowed no moment of happiness?
"I'm sorry, I didn't realize we had company." She turned to leave.
One of the members whispered, just loud enough for her to hear, "I guess it's true what they say about orphans. You can make her a countess all you want, but..." That was all he said before there was a loud crack.

He had heard her as soon as the back door had opened. She was humming to herself, happy. No doubt she had just come in from the garden. She never sang, only hummed, but it was beautiful and swelled his chest with pride whenever he was privy to it. He smiled slightly, leaning on his hand, listening.
"How will we know where to find it?"
He looked down at the lanky woman, cocking an eyebrow.
"If you're not in their heads by now, I can't help you with that." He gestured disgustedly. "They operate like a hive mind. Finding it won't be the issue. It's everything that comes afterwards that ought to bother you."
He paused as Violet entered the room. It was as if Zephyr himself carried her in. She brought the air and light of the outdoors in with her, caught in her messy hair which fell about her face softly. It had been tied up at one point, but had since worked its way loose, perfectly framing her delicate features. Her hands, busy worrying the cloth she clutched, were dusted with a thin layer of dark soil. So she had been tending the garden. Her dress fell around her frame beautifully, slightly rumpled from the labor, her sleeves pushed up over her fair arms. Her cheeks were a delicious pink from the fresh air, a domestic smudge of dirt across them, her eyes sparkling from the wind. She was one hell of a prize, and he savored every chance his inferiors had to see it. He was startled out of his adoration by muffled laughter. The humming died between her lips as she looked up, noticing his men. He glanced down at them, and when he looked back up at her again, she was gripping the cloth tight, her shiny eyes now threatening to brim over with tears. That was annoying; it made her significantly less intimidating.
“I'm sorry, I didn't realize we had company." Pulling her shoulders in, she turned to leave, evidently hurt.
He knitted his forehead together in confusion when a member of his troop spoke up, the man with only half an ear, whispering to the person beside him, "I guess it's true what they say about orphans. You can make her a countess all you want, but-"
That was as far as he got before the back of Olaf's hand struck him across the face. The man tumbled to the ground, clutching his cheek. Violet shrieked, holding her hands to cover her mouth.
"THAT is my WIFE." Olaf roared. "And you will show some damn respect." He sat back in his chair, his eyes flaming. "Has no one ever told you I am not a man to be crossed? Or that you ought not to disrespect those who put food on your plate? I have no room for mindless idiots, so watch your step, lest you find yourself suddenly... disposable." He sneered. The group froze in mute silence, afraid to move lest they direct attention to themselves. They hardly even breathed.
"Now," he evened his tone, "does anyone else have something that they want to say?" They shook their heads no, silently. "Then get out of my house. We can finish this later."
They didn't need to be told twice, quickly scurrying up and out, slamming the door shut in two minutes flat. She stood at the edge of the room, shocked. He looked up at her. Her mouth hung open, her hand hovering in front of her, but she was no longer threatening to cry. He took a long sip of his wine as she scurried up the steps, not looking back. She began humming again as she reached the top landing.

Sinking back into his chair, he took another sip, satisfied, hearing the notes carry her off.

Chapter Text

She washed up in the bathroom, trying to untangle what exactly had just happened. As she rinsed her arms under the clear water, she caught herself smiling. She shook her head.

Having a man threaten physical violence on her behalf shouldn't make her happy, especially not if it was a man who was willing to follow through on such promises. Still.

She slipped into a song she had heard her mother sing once, long ago, as she stepped into the running water, rubbing her hand across her legs and knees, brushing the grime down the swirling drain. That was twice now that he had defended her at the cost of one of his lackeys. She mused on this as she lathered the soap in her hands, massaging her skin. Perhaps he was right; perhaps punishing herself was the wrong answer. That didn't make him the right answer though, she noted glumly. Maybe there was no right answer. The thought terrified her.

Still, she had a persistent tingle in her belly. The anger in his eyes- it was more than annoyance at personal disrespect, he was usually so calculating. No, he was mad because they had laughed at her. He was acting genuinely protective of her. The thought bubbled ominously in her ribs, turning her stomach. She wasn't sure that was a good thing.

Softly, she stepped out of the water, and turning the running faucet off, patted herself dry with a towel. She strode into the room aiming to put on a clean dress, but hesitated in front of her drawers. Turning slowly, she opened his closet, and pulling out one of his fancy shirts, she began to put it on. Thanks to his lanky frame, it almost came down to her knees. She pivoted in front of the mirror, examining herself. It was a beautiful fabric, pleasing to the touch, more liquid than substance. It was a rich purple, similar in color to the ripe plums of the farmers market. It made her happy, but was that enough? Humming quietly, she padded out into the hallway and down the steps.

 

He heard her coming before she arrived. She was humming again. And although she was happy now, no doubt she was coming to berate him, telling him that hitting others was "wrong." He scowled, preparing himself for the berating. When she arrived beside his chair, she stopped, silent. He turned to look at her, and could have died for doing so.

She was wearing one of his silk shirts, the long sleeves covering all but the tips of her fingers, which tugged at the fabric nervously. Her legs were considerably more bare, showing off more skin than really ought to be allowed. He swallowed hard.

She glanced up and down, self conscious.

"I need you to kiss me- right now."

That was all the prompting he needed. Growling in satisfaction, he scooped her into his arms. She stood on her toes, pulling his face down so that she could reach him. "Why do you have to be so damn tall?" she grumbled.

Quickly, grabbing her by the ass, he lifted her up, pressing her against the nearby door to gain leverage. Hungrily, he kissed her lips. "That any better?" he whispered against her teeth.

"Much,” she replied, somewhat obstructed.

 

She pulled him closer to herself, enjoying the feeling of his strong arms holding her up. He slid a hand along her thigh, pressing his hip into her to keep her balanced. She moaned at the feeling, her fingers tightening on his jacket. Slowly, he ran his hand up her side, feeling the taunt skin shudder, her veins thrumming and buzzing at the feeling of his cold fingers against her.

 

He held her against the wall, her legs wrapped about his waist, arms hugging him closer and closer to her. He gripped her tightly, rocking himself into her, gasping into her neck. Fumbling, he ran his hand across her breast, gripping it.

"Ow! Calm down, it's not going anywhere,” she chided him.

The buzzing in his hips was growing more and more urgent as he pressed against her, the teasing warmth between her legs sending his head spinning. He bit at her jawline, leaving a pretty trail of purple marks along her skin as his fingers dug into her. She braced against his chest, trying to shimmy down, still panting breathlessly.

"And where are you going?" he braced his free arm against the wall, blocking her path.

"The bed. Come on." Grabbing him by the lapel, she pulled him down to her height, kissing him ferociously.

"Fuck the bed,” pressing her back into the wall with his thigh, he bit at her lip. Her hands fluttered to the waist of his pants, pulling him towards her by his hips. He growled at the pressure. Urgently, he slid his hand up her leg, pressing his thumb into her hips. "Does that hurt?" he muttered, smilingly sarcastic, into her ear.

"Just shut up,” she replied, bitingly. Humming with pleasure, he ran his thumb along the crease between her thigh and hips, pleased at her breathy gasp. He ventured further in, methodically massaging her inner thigh until he was tucking his fingers into the elastic of her undergarments, brushing his fingers against her. She gasped, clawing at his neck, kissing him fervently.

Quickly, building to an urgent pace, he pressed into her, rubbing at her with his thumb. Her gasps grew closer and closer together as she pressed her face into his shoulder, shaking and stuttering.

Suddenly, her fingers dug into his back as she cried out, muffling herself in his coat. Smiling wickedly, he slipped a finger in easily, quickening his pace. She drew a sharp breath, and leaning back, covered her mouth, biting at the sounds he was pressing from her. He studied her face, ravishing the moment, soaking in every delicious detail of her ecstasy. Her gasps grew higher in pitch as he pressed a second in, working her through her next orgasm, scarcely having rolled through it before another was upon her.

"Oh my g- Yes! Yes! Oh my god-” she called out, hand still covering her mouth. And there it was. He smiled triumphantly before nipping at her neck, causing her to move her arms to grip him about the shoulders, freeing her mouth. Needy for more, he pressed his tongue between her teeth and was thrilled when she yielded to his presence. Stumbling backwards, careful not to disengage, he guided her over to his chair, which he perched upon eagerly, pulling her into his lap. He reached down, swiftly unbuttoning his pants, relieving the building pressure. Not wanting to move away, he felt for the side table blindly, trying to pull open the drawer. She looked over just in time to see him pull a condom from the drawer.

"Seriously? In the entrance hall?" The disbelief in her voice was heavy. He shrugged.

"I like to keep my bases covered. One of us should."

But then she was kissing him again, holding his face, fingers tight around his jawline. He kissed her back, quickly opening the package, trying his best to not break the kiss.

Slowly, she lifted herself into a kneeling position on the chair, sliding closer to his body so that they were pressed chest to chest, his head lifted up into her kiss.

"Just, first- Let me reiterate my statement from last night-" her voice was clear but staccatoed- "fuck you."

"As you wish." He growled, his tone gravelly with exertion as he eased her back down. He shuddered into her warmth, gasping into her neck, savoring the small whimpers that escaped her with each bit of length. “Alright, you’re fine,” the words grit between his teeth.

Gripping her tighter, he pressed himself against her, thrusting into her. She wrapped herself around him, desperately holding him to herself. He bit at her neck, running his tongue along the red tender spots he left like bookmarks, marking his place.

"You. Are. All. Mine." He thrust into her with each word, relishing the gasps she gave in response. Holding her tight by the hips, he moved her easily in time with his now quick thrusts, more than gratified by the sight of her, her lip caught between her teeth in furrowed concentration. With a final roaring burst of desire, he reached his climax, his fingers digging into her, holding her flush against his hips as he came, drunk off the ability to do so.

Staggering, she eased off of him as each caught their breaths, folding herself into the space beside him in the chair. They sat there, panting, each feeling the glow diffused within their bones. It was a while before she spoke.

"You're wrong, you know." Her words were still breathy. He looked over at her. "You may have married me, but you can never own me." He chuckled, too satisfied in his victory to mind her obstinance. He leaned back.

"Oh I'm sure."

She leaned against him, tired, groggy, and glowing. He placed an arm around her, holding her to him. She was radiant. And she was his.

Chapter Text

She watched him as he slept that night. Her gut twisted within her, rolling as she thought of how her parents' hearts would break to see her now. She hadn't the luxury of leaving - she wasn't willing to gamble her siblings' lives in the place of her happiness, keeping them on the run until Olaf died or quit. She rested her chin against her hands, holding her knees to her chest. He wouldn't quit. She sighed, rubbing at her eyes.

She was allowed happiness yes, moreover she deserved it. But this wasn't happiness, and his enjoyment was a heavy collateral to bear, her heart weighted by his possessive actions. He truly believed she was his.

She tried to remember books she had read about captives and captors. In Peter Pan, Captain Hook had held Tinkerbell in a glass bottle. But she had escaped, almost too late, to warn the lost boys of the evil plot she had helped create in her jealousy. That was no help, she thought glumly.

In The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, there had been plenty of times the children had found themselves cornered. But, she noted, she didn't have the luxury of a large lion on her side.

The more she thought, the more convinced she became that she had no literary precedent. Perhaps she was looking at the wrong sides of the stories she thought, feeling heavy with the weight of wrongdoing; perhaps she was no longer on the side of the heroes. After all, she lived with a villain, she cooked and cleaned for villains, and now - her breath caught on the lump in her throat - she was sleeping with a villain. Literally and figuratively. She clutched her knees tighter to herself. What was she to do?

She looked at the man beside her, a burning hatred mixed with a tugging fondness. How had this happened? She didn't have Stockholm syndrome- did she? She sighed, making a mental note to look up the symptoms at the library. She made a second note to look up the definition of morality.

 

She had always thought of herself as a good person- a person who made self-sacrificing decisions for the good of others. But this? This was pure selfishness. And while he could reconcile that, she did not want to be like him. As she looked down at him, she felt her stomach turn, nauseous at the thought of how easily she could see herself living out the rest of her life as his wife, his Countess, his property.

 

He stirred in his sleep, reflexively reaching towards the empty space beside himself. Her heart twisted. It was hard to picture herself ever learning to like this man, but it had been so easy for them to slip into a domestic ease- they had a daily rhythm that, though she scarcely could admit it, wasn't entirely terrible. And yet she still found her chest heavy with questions- "What if? What if?"

What if she was granted her freedom? What if she was given the opportunity to pursue her own life? What if, her heart ached at the thought, she was reunited with her siblings? What if she was allowed to make a home as a single, young heiress instead of an uneasy countess?

 

The thought occurred to her slowly as she sat in the darkness, the same way a trickling water source might gradually fill a bucket. She was already edging towards the tendencies of wickedness, but perhaps it wasn't too late. Perhaps she could use that moral grayness to perpetuate some good. Perhaps she could do something to stop him, to save herself, and to protect her siblings. Perhaps she could commit just one heinous act in the name of the good that would follow.

 

Perhaps she could kill him.

 

She physically flinched away at the thought. No, it was admissible to have such ideas fleetingly, but she could never seriously entertain the notion. She looked down at him, hating the creeping fondness in the back of her mind. She lay down, quietly, turning her back to him.

 

She wondered what would break her parents hearts more- her actions or her thoughts. Lost in a pool of grief, she fell into an uneasy sleep.

Chapter Text

Some thoughts are so dark they can leave a discoloration across your whole experience, and no matter what mood you are in at the beginning of the day, when you see something that reminds you of it, you cannot help but feel the moment creeping darker and darker across you. As Violet sat across the table from her villainous husband, desperately trying to think of anything but his villainy, she found herself sinking deeper and deeper into the sorrow that came with the acknowledgment of her own wickedness.

 

She watched him, sick to her stomach. Her coffee sat heavy in her gut, turned to cement as it slipped down her throat. Was she a murderer? Did she have it in her?

Naturally, she wanted to say no, but the thought of being kept from her siblings, of being forced to marry a evil man, of being left destitute and parentless and horribly unhappy... was that enough to turn one towards villainy?

She thought back to the first night he had slapped Klaus across the face, and remembered the bubbling hatred that had boiled over inside her. She swallowed hard, clenching her jaw. Standing distractedly from his seat, he walked toward the kitchen, paper in hand. He brushed his fingers against her cheek as he passed her. She shivered.

She would never get used to the uncomfortable warmth of his body. It was easier to think of him as a bloodless creature. But if she was going to do... what she would, she would need to reconcile that fact.

"What has such a pretty face so bothered?" He chided her, still not looking up.

"Nothing, just distracted, sorry." She looked away, sipping at her cup. He frowned.

"Are you feeling alright? You look quite pale."

He strode back over to her, pinching her chin between his fingers, placing his other hand to her forehead.

"I'm fine! Just a bit lightheaded." She waved his hands away.

"How's the wound- is something wrong with it?"

She swatted at his anxiety with her open fingers. "No, it's healed fine, just like you said. I probably just need more sunlight or protein or something."

He hummed a cautious note in response but let her be, returning to his seat.

"If you say so. Don't you dare pass out."

"I'll try my best." She muttered, forcing a smile. The pads of her fingers burned against her cup.

He trusted her. Or rather, he trusted her as far as a man like him could trust anyone. He considered her a neutralized threat at the very least. The feeling made her preemptively sorrowful. She forced a deep breath into herself. No need getting worked up. Having hateful thoughts didn't make her a hateful person did it? Or was it more damning that she didn't take advantage of any opportunity she had to leave?

As the dark cloud settled around her, choking out the light in her thoughts, she wondered if she herself, only a month ago, would have found her current self even the least bit noble, and if that made her any better than Count Olaf after all.

"You still owe me, by the way."

She looked up at him, startled out of her reverie, "Pardon?"

"For the coffee. Not a single thank you."

Sighing, she stood, quietly placing a kiss to his lips. "Thank you."

He frowned, going back to his reading. "For so solemn a payment, I'll have to consider whether or not I'll bother heating it for you tomorrow."

She didn't reply to his words, but turned to leave the room.

"This came for you, by the way." She glanced back. He held a letter out towards her, pinched between his thumb and index finger like it was a disgusting thing he very much did not want to touch. She snatched it from him, momentarily elated as she padding her way out of the room, listening to the door shut mournfully behind her.

 

She ducked into her side room, shutting the door behind her before tearing the envelope open greedily. She pulled three pages from it, hungrily pouring over every word. Just seeing the handwriting, sloping and thin, made her heart buzz with the feeling of home. She read it a third and fourth time before settling back in her seat, running the pad of her thumb softly over Klaus' signature and Sunny's scrawled name. She bit back the tears, telling herself that crying only ever made it worse. Carefully, she refolded the papers before placing them in a stack with all her other letters. She reached for a blank piece of paper excitedly, and then paused, dumbfounded by her lack of things to say. Their letters were always full, rich with descriptions of their studies and books she ought to read, but she found that she had nothing to say in return that didn't seem horribly depressing.

She didn't want her siblings to worry about her- she knew they would, but she didn't want that. She stared at the mockingly empty paper, turning her pen over in her hands. Her heart sunk.

Softly, the thought pressed once more at the forefront of her mind. She closed her eyes, trying to shoo it away, but her leaden insides made it feel like she was drowning.

She lifted the pen again carefully, scrawling across the top of the paper in tight looping letters.

Chapter Text

She sat in her small room, pouring over a book. She had been like this all morning, absorbed in a quiet uneasiness. He watched her from the doorway. Her dark hair fell across her face as she chewed the nail of her thumb.

"You're going to need glasses if you keep it up."

She startled, looking up at him.

"You've been reading all day. You've hardly left the room. What are you up to?"

She closed the book, sighing. "Just some light reading. Sorry, I got caught up in it."

He glanced over her shoulder, shifting it closer to him.

"The best of Edgar Allen Poe?" He frowned.

"Like I said. Light reading."

He stood beside her. "People will be arriving soon. We have a lot to do after yesterday's... interruption."

Pushing away from the desk distractedly, she stood, stepping around him. "Sorry, yes, everything will be ready."

He caught her wrist as she walked past him. She paused, arm outstretched, looking up at him. He pulled her towards himself, guiding her by the arm. As she stepped towards him, he cradled her neck in his long fingers, staring at her. She didn't move, studying his face, the small glint in his eye, the twitch at the corner of his lips. He held his head high, his eyes darting across her. Slowly, deliberately, he pulled her up towards himself, lifting her face to meet his lips. He bent forward to close the gap, maintaining his grip on her wrist. After a prolonged moment, she eased off the balls of her feet, breaking the kiss.

 

The look in his eyes, only inches from hers, sent a nervous itch down her back.

"I should go, you'll ruin your appetite." She rebuked him, trying for a joking tone, as she pulled her wrist from his grasp.

She exhaled softly as she left the room to change into something a bit more presentable before she began prep. She walked the halls quietly, lost in thought.

Rather quickly, she settled on one of the dresses he had given her, hoping to reassert herself as a respectable person in the eyes of the troop after the last event's fiasco. It was a formidable black velvet dress that cut her figure into a silhouette, and would honestly look more at home at a funeral than a dinner party, but it would do. She left her hair down, letting it cascade across her back. When she looked at herself in the mirror, she looked like a specter. She touched her fingers to her face. When did she get so pale?

 

She was given a wider girth of space as she worked her way between them, clearing plates. Granted, they were probably more afraid of Olaf's reaction than of her displeasure, but she enjoyed having the ability to move without being prodded or whispered at. As she walked past the head of the table, he pressed a glass of wine into her hands. "You look like you could use this." She sipped lightly at the cup, making her way into the kitchen. She let the door shut behind herself, muffling the loud conversation in the other room. The pile of dirty dishes loomed beside her mockingly. She sighed, leaning against the counter, taking a large sip from the glass.

 

"Isn't it risky?" He looked over at the woman who had spoken up, worry lines creasing her forehead.

"Where's your sense of glory?" He swirled the whisky in his glass, his tone deep and slow.

"She has a point, Olaf." The man with a silver nose spoke up, gesturing across the table hesitantly.

He leaned forward, his lips pressed together. "As risky as leaving it, and them, standing?"

The two dissenters looked down, embarrassed.

"The brats are getting older, and quickly. There's nothing to say the next generation isn't already upon us. The very least thing we can do is keep the numbers even." He leaned back again, folding his hands together. "We need no threats, no evidence, no survivors."

They murmured amongst themselves, nervous.

"Not to mention the wealth we'll acquire in the process."

That perked them up. His underlings were carefully chosen, but they still had the infuriating habit of being cowards at the most inopportune time.

Another woman spoke up, nervous.

"But how are we supposed to get in? What's our angle?"

He smiled slowly, wickedly.

"Why, we'll need a volunteer."

 

It had been ages since she disappeared into the kitchen.

"Where's the whisky?" He pushed the door open, expecting to find her working.

She was propped against the counter, her arms crossed, shoulders relaxed and leaning forward. She looked over at him lullingly, head tilted to the left, pinches of pink across the bridge of her nose and tips of her ears.

His eyes danced between the almost-empty glass in her hand and half-empty bottle on the counter. He smiled, amused. "Well, well, well. What have you gotten into?" She stood up reluctantly, placing her glass on the counter beside herself.

She sighed, opening the cabinet behind her. "Do you really not know where it is by now?"

He shrugged, walking over to her. "I like to keep my favorite things within arms reach. Can't help it if you insist on tucking them away."

She turned, keeping a hand on the countertop. He took the proffered bottle in one hand, handing her glass back to her with the other. She smiled softly and clinked it against the bottle in a toast. They both took a deep drink. She crossed her arms again, leaning her weight against the drawers with her hip.

"Do you need anything else, or?"

He relaxed his shoulders, regarding her smugly.

"No, just enjoying the view. I like you drunk."

She pulled her head back, offended. "What is that supposed to mean?"

"You're looser, less strict with yourself. Not to mention the fact that it's nice to see you with some actual color to your skin."

She clicked her tongue at him. "You shouldn't be such an ass all the time."

"Language. Also, you need to learn to take a compliment."

She looked up at him disbelievingly. "You need to learn to give a compliment."

He smiled down at her. "You don't exactly give me much opportunity to." He took another swallow from his bottle.

She swirled her glass, looking up at him.

"What is that supposed to mean?"

"You prefer your words sharp, my Dear- always keeping me on the defense."

She scoffed. "Yeah, you're the one on defense."

He smiled, his horrible wicked smile, "Am I really so terrible to be around?"

She looked away, equal parts guilt and desire tugging at her. It was so easy to slip into comfort around him after spending four years dancing around one another.

"Do your guests need anything else?"

"Forget them." He placed his bottle down, stepping closer to her. She raised an eyebrow.

"I gladly would. You're the one who insists upon their presence."

"They can fend for themselves."

He gripped her to him, holding her by the waist. Before she could protest, his lips were over hers, fervently demanding her attention. Setting down her wine glass, she brought her hands up to his shoulders, holding onto him as he gripped her waist, lifting her onto the counter. Tugging her forward, he slid his tongue between her teeth, rolling his hips against her.

 

Pulling back, she cocked her eyebrow, "If you continue ignoring them, you'll have a mutiny on your hands." The only thing that scared her more than the thought of his men was the thought of them acting on their own accord without his buffer. She shuddered.

He scowled. "They'll manage."

"Will they?" There was a sarcastic lilting note in her voice.

He paused, and then grumbling, grabbed his bottle and left.

She smiled, laughing a single breathy note before taking another sip from her glass. Having successfully returned him to his duties, she glanced at the mocking pile of plates mournfully. Finishing her glass, she placed it beside the rest. Time to get back to work.

Chapter Text

By the time the last person had left, it was late. His head swam with the effects of the liquor. Standing unsteadily, he made his way into the kitchen, looking for his wife. A pile of clean dishes stood in her place, but she was nowhere to be seen. He frowned. Tiredly, he made his way up the stairs and into the bedroom.

 

She sat curled against the headboard of the bed, absorbed back into her book. His eyes grazed across her soft hands, supporting the weighty literary brick. She was already in her bedclothes, her lithe legs poking out under the hem, her feet tucked beneath her. He stepped into the room. She looked up distractedly.

"Finished playing the good host?"

Grumbling, he pulled off his dress clothes before falling flat on the bed beside her.

"If you need to get glasses, I'll never forgive you."

She looked down at him questioningly.

"It'd be a perfect waste of a pretty face." He rolled onto his side and pinched her chin between two fingers. She rolled her eyes, pushing his hand away, annoyed at his behavior, but continued to read.

Irritated, he grabbed at the book, lifting it out of her hands.

She pursed her lips, folding her hands in her lap. "Can I help you?"

He shrugged teasingly. "Sorry, can't risk you leaving me for a dead tree."

She glared at him for a quick moment before reaching for her book. He lifted it out of her reach.

She looked at him, exasperated. "Can I have my book back? Please?" She placed a tired pleading emphasis on the please before reaching for it again.

He rolled further away. A slow grin spread across his face. "It'll cost you."

She didn't like the tone in his voice.

"What do you want?" Her voice rang with resentment.

He purred, turning the book over in his hands. "Well I guess it depends on what you want. After all it's a buyer's market." She stared at him stoically. "I'm feeling generous. In fact, because I am so charitable and kind, I will make you a simple trade. For the low, low price of one kiss, I will allow you... one page."

She looked at him incredulously. "You are selling me my library book... one page at a time?"

"To be ripped out in an order of my discretion." He skimmed through the pages.

 

An easy way to determine the character of any person is to look at the way they treat books. Violet, who had spent a good amount of her time growing up in a home with loving parents, had a healthy reverence for books. Granted, sometimes when she had stayed up too late reading them, she would use her open book as a pillow, or might utilize a separate, smaller book as a bookmark, but she never made a habit of destroying, damaging, or even misplacing books.

Olaf, on the other hand, was more interested in a book's monetary than literary value. Since the book in his hands was a library book in relatively poor condition, this placed it in great peril.

 

"Don't!" She held her hands out to it, but he pulled it away quickly, holding up a warning finger. He smiled wickedly.

She sighed. "How many pages are there?"

 

He flipped to the end, frowning at the small print, "578." He looked up. "Of course," his tone was slow, mock-contemplative, "you could buy it back all at once and save yourself the hassle of trying to piece it all together in the right order. I will also accept payment in larger denominations, if it so pleases you." She leaned back, glaring at him. He shifted towards her, placing a hand on her thigh. "Don't act so put out. It's unbecoming." He began kissing at her neck. She hummed a sour note in response.

 

He shifted her closer, pulling himself up into a kneeling position. Moving her so that she was more easily accessible, he placed one of his legs between her knees, still holding her by the thigh. "Last I checked, it wasn't so very terrible at all." Tilting her head upwards, he moved to her lips, kissing her fiercely. She leaned into the touch subconsciously as he moved his hand to the small of her back.

He pulled back just far enough that she could still feel his breath, heavy with liquor, on her face. There was a glint in his eyes that made her nervous. Grasping at the fabric of her nightdress, he began to pull it over her head. She shivered in the cold light as he ran his fingers down her side, pressing his face to hers once again. His long fingers pressed into her back, eliciting a gasp from her. Taking the opportunity to deepen the kiss, he ran his other hand across her leg. It made her feel self-conscious in a weird way. She began to lean forward but he pushed her backwards, and then, holding her by the waist, slid her down so that she was on her back. "That's a good girl,” he whispered into her neck, nipping at her jawline. The words made her skin crawl. She pressed up against him, her hands to his shoulders, in an attempt to re-situate herself, but he took advantage of the space between her back and the mattress to get a better grip on her, pulling her closer to himself. She rolled her shoulder forward, pushing herself up and away from him in order to shift back up into a sitting position. He sat up as well, humming his displeasure. "I rescind my statement."

She looked over at him, making accusatory eye contact. "You're absolutely ridiculous."

He lulled his head, pleased. "Someone's in a mood." He smiled, a slow toothy smile, "How delectable."

“What’s gotten into you?”

“I’ve told you, I like my women fiery; don’t act so shocked. You know what you do to me.”

“Are you blaming me for your own shortcomings?”

“I wouldn’t say there’s anything short about it.”

“Oh my god. You’re so… you.”

And then his hand was on her upper arm, pulling her towards himself. He gripped her from behind, holding her so that her shoulder blades were pressed to his chest as he continued his work on her neck. She rolled her head to the side reflexively, affording him easier access.

“Yes, that is what I do best, Darling. Bother nice little wives who only want to read their books. I’m the epitome of wickedness.”

“Is it at least going to be worth my while?”

“Oh, Countess,” his hand slid down to her thigh, his fingers running across the delicate skin, “I’ll make certain of that. I always take care of you, don’t I?” Her heart quickened pace at the sensation, thrumming along to her shallow breaths. His other hand, pressing her to him, wandered over her shuddering ribcage and dragged his thumb across the base of her breasts. She inhaled sharply as he touched her. Slowly, purposefully, he fanned his fingers across her, savoring the warmth of her softness, the gentle give and delicious pressure as he dug his fingers more firm against her breast. She moaned, deep in her throat, her eyes closed. Breaking away for only a moment, he quickly undid the back of her bra, dragging his hand over her shoulders, dusting his fingers against her bare arms. Kissing her neck, he brought his hand back to her naked breast, gripping it tightly. She squeaked delightfully as he caught her nipple between his fingers, gently massaging the tender skin, kneading it softly, his open palms pressing her back into his grip. Pressing his erection to the base of her spine, he pushed himself against her as his other hand began to wander further up her thigh, into the throbbing heat between her legs.

 

She rolled her hips instinctively at the touch as his arm spilled past her waist, pressing against the sensitive skin of her leg. An urgency built up inside her as he worked methodically across her body, biting at her neck and ear as his hands teased her. His fingers fluttered higher and higher up her thigh until they were slipping past the elastic of her undergarments, teasing at her.  She pressed back into him, arching her back. He gripped her tighter, firmly holding her breast in one hand while his other explored her, playing her like a strange instrument, trying to see what sounds he could get her to make. Her fingers fluttered on his jawline, trying to pull him closer, pushing her hips back towards him. His erection pressed hard into her back, causing her to jump slightly. Taking advantage of her surprise, he lay her down, pinning her beneath himself, holding her down by the wrists so that she wouldn't push him off again. She twisted her arms lightly to no avail. He smiled, satisfied. "You're not very good with submission, are you?"

"That should hardly come as a surprise." Her tone was biting. He didn't seem to care. If anything, he seemed to like it. He pressed his lips back to hers, using his angle of advantage to slip his tongue past her teeth, pressing his knee up between her legs. The warm pressure created such a perfect friction, a whimper leaked out of her without her meaning to. She felt him drop one of her wrists as he began fumbling for the bedside table, no doubt looking for a condom. That was one thing she was glad for- that was not a fight she had ever wanted to have with him.

He made up for the lack of physical restraint by kissing her deeply, moving his leg upwards in a way that had her arching against the sheets. He let go of her other wrist, holding her by her ribs as he slid his tongue over the cusp of her breast. Pressing up at the sensation, she immediately realized the consequence as the action pushed her down against this leg, pulling another whimper from her at the sensation. He worked his slick tongue over her chest, letting his teeth graze over her nipples, growing more content with each needy groan he forced out of her. Her need was now undeniable, her pride the only thing stopping her from begging him in a whining tone to just have mercy and get on with it.

But then he was kissing a line down her throat, between her breasts, and across her stomach, nipping at her occasionally, causing her to gasp and pull backwards. He ran his hands down so that he was gripping her by the hips, sliding her back into place whenever she flinched away reflexively at his bites. When he finally reached the level of her hips, he slid off her undergarments, and, placing one last kiss on her abdomen, slid one long finger inside her. Her body hummed with the welcome pressure, gripping at the back of his neck as she gasped.

 

His chest rumbled with pride at so strong a reaction. He pushed her back down onto the mattress, biting at her lip, quickening his pace. She ground down against him, pressing herself against his hand, her teeth a perfect row of white pearls as she gasped.

“There, isn’t that better?” he slid a second finger in, gratified by her heady groan as she clutched at him so tight as to almost break the skin. He waited until she was almost breathless, almost there, before removing his hand and smoothly sliding his now urgent erection inside her.

 

Her groan was muffled by the sudden presence of his tongue as he kissed her lustfully. He thrust into her, rocking her into the mattress, moaning his own pleasure into her open mouth. As he picked up speed, causing her to gasp in time to his movements, he made his way back down to her chest, leaving dark purple marks on her tender breasts. She grabbed at the sheets, rolling her hips in time with his. She felt her climax impending, struggling at the cusp of its boundaries, not quite ready to spill over yet. He panted heavily against her skin, his own moans becoming closer and closer together. Damn it all if she was going to let him come before she did.

“Wait, just-” Bracing herself up by her elbows, she maneuvered them both over surprisingly easily, leaving him looking dazed beneath her. She held him down by the shoulders, keeping the rhythm of her hips constant, savoring the new, pounding depth. His eyes were wide in surprise, but his countenance soon changed to one of hungry glee as she leaned over him. The extra sensation pushed her over that brink, sending radio static pleasure through her veins, unleashing a shuddering, tumbling river across her. Making use of her distractedness, he yanked her down to himself, holding the sides of her face, kissing her deeply. As he came, he groaned into her open mouth, feeling her smile.

"You're not very good with submission, are you?" She rolled to the side, stretching her arm above her body, tiredly, her heaving breaths pressing at her ribs as she waited for him to catch his own breath. “For all your talk, you hardly know what to do unless I'm telling you to go to hell."

"Only vocally, my dear. The scratches on my back tell a very different story."

He stretched out, his hands clasped behind his head. If he had a cigarette, she thought bemusedly, they'd look like a couple in a movie.

 

She reached across him, grabbing her book back.

"You're reading again already?" He looked at her incredulously, his breath still ragged. She held it up.

"Can you blame me for taking it back before you use it as bribery again?" He closed his eyes, grunting. She turned to put it on her night stand.

"Read me something from it."

She looked over at him, "Pardon?"

He was watching her, hands still behind his head, "If you're so caught up in it, it must be somewhat okay. Read me something." He turned his face away again, shutting his eyes.

She paused, confused, before settling in beside him, opening to her marked place.

"For the most wild, yet most homely narrative which I am about to pen, I neither expect nor solicit belief..."

He closed his eyes, listening to the sonorous sound of her voice gradually get hazier and hazier until he drifted off to a deep sleep.

Chapter Text

Light spilled across the white pages, almost blinding her with its luminous quality. The book was filled with stories of murder. She had found it tucked among the shelves of the library, sitting innocently. She had always liked the feeling of heavy books in her hands; there's a certain comfort in the weight of a book, as if by pounds and ounces it is trying to communicate the desperation with which it wishes to tell you its stories, secrets, and ideas. Of course, as everyone knows, ideas are very dangerous things, and the book Violet held was full of them.

She tried to put herself into the shoes of the persons in the stories, tried to imagine herself being the kind of person who had the ability and audacity to murder, and then had to wonder if she even needed to pretend.

Of course, there were plenty of noble people who had killed others. As a child she was taught to always seek out police officers when lost, the same people responsible for the capture and incapacitation of dangerous criminals, sometimes using guns. That didn't make them wicked. Almost every story she could remember being read from her book of folk tales as a child involved the death of the unlawful as the thrilling conclusion, proving that justice had won overall.

She shut the book in her lap, holding it closed with her thin fingers as if she could hold in all the wickedness between its pages just by shutting it.

She closed her eyes. No. She was not a murderer. Even in the name of justice, she didn't think she would be able to do it. But when she found herself thinking of her family, thinking of possibly never seeing her siblings again, she'd catch herself wondering if she could do it in the name of selfishness instead.

She hadn't missed the treacherous irony of the night before, reading the stories she sought as inspiration as he fell asleep beside her. She wondered what he would do in her place. The acid in her stomach rolled. She didn't like the notion of having anything in common with him.

A hand rested on her shoulder, causing her to jump. Olaf squinted up at the sky as if disgusted by the lightness of the clouds. "You've been spending so much time outside, I was beginning to wonder if you'd dug a tunnel to escape."

She rolled her eyes, clicking her tongue, "As opposed to walking out the front door?"

His upper lip twitched into a scowl, as he stayed, surveying the skies. "I've never pretended to understand you." He glanced down at her, "Still buried in that same book?"

She folded her arms over it, remembering his last abduction. "Yes, well, there is quite a bit to it."

"I don't like it. Countesses shouldn't be bothered with such things. You hardly need your head filled with such treacherous plots."

Her breath caught in her throat. Did he know? How could he know? She forced herself to keep her voice steady.

"Well, it was a treacherous plot that brought me here in the first place." He dug his fingers into her shoulder. She winced.

"My fiery Bride." He pronounced each word as if he were tasting it, the ghost of a smile in his annunciation. She looked down again.

 

Lately she had been finding it easier to not fear him. Granted, that's not to say that she wasn't afraid of him, but she had been basking in a new sort of impunity, stretching it for all its worth with her biting remarks and clever witticisms. But that was not what he needed. He needed her respect. Holding his hand out until she took it, he stood her up, leading her back into the house after placing a slow kiss to her knuckles. "No need to busy yourself with all that,” he elected to ignore her previous comment. "You stick to your job," he smiled, a wide toothy smile, tapping the cover of her book, "and I'll stick to mine."

He could practically see the anxiety rolling in her. Good. It was time he regained control of his house. He watched her disappear into her room beside the stairs, no doubt off to tinker with gadgets or bury her nose in more books. He sighed. She was pretty, but she was obstinate, insisting on busying herself with such trivial things. Well, no matter to him. As long as it kept her out of trouble and within the house, what harm could she do? Or rather, what harm could she do that he could not stop?

He mustn't forget that she was the same person who as a child who had scaled a thirty foot wall using nothing but twisted metal and torn bedsheets. No, she wasn't fearless, but worse than that, she was capable of acting through her fear. That was evident enough in the tone of her voice and her tendency to barb him with her sharp remarks. He smiled, rubbing at the sides of his face. Yes, she was remarkable. How very fortunate that she was his.

 

She felt guilt pressing at her back as she ducked back into the house, away from his touch. Shutting the door behind herself, she placed the book facedown on the table, not wanting to look at it. She stepped out of her shoes, sinking into the chair beside her desk. Glumly, she leaned down, resting her head on her arms. There was no reason for her to feel bad about exploring her options of escape, and yet, as the thought of killing him ricocheted uncomfortably throughout her, she couldn't help but feel a little bit mournful. She wasn't fond of him, but she had grown used to him, for what that was worth. Perhaps that was even more reason to go through with it. Her fingers tapped across a piece of scrap metal, trying to kickstart the gears in her head.

An opened clock sat in front of her, picked apart like a vivisected frog; she had found it upstairs and was scavenging the insides for parts to build the prototype of the scrubbing machine she had begun to think up the other day.

Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out her ribbon. It was faded after years of use, but she refused to get rid of it. She tied her hair up, staring into the maze of metal as if she could read the answers in the Braille histories of the dusty gears. Holding her screwdriver tightly, she went to work.

 

When he opened the door, she didn't even look up, too entangled in her work. "You've been here for hours, what are you doing? We have work to do." She glanced in his direction before re-immersing herself in her work.

"Sorry, I got a bit caught up." She gestured to the three bins on the table absentmindedly. He frowned.

"You've made... piles of metal?"

She straightened up, pointing to them each in turn with her screwdriver, "Specifically needed, potentially good, and unusable."

As far as he could tell, the only difference was that the unusables were rusted.

"That's not entirely true... you could always use them as weapons." She looked back up at him, raising an eyebrow. He lifted his hands in surrender. "I'm just saying, if you have no possible use for rusty shrapnel, you're even dumber than you look."

She rolled her eyes, returning to her work. "Whatever you say. On an unrelated note, remind me to dispose of these very very far away." She began to arrange her tools in the drawer with a tired sigh. "Give me a moment, I'll have dinner ready in an hour."

"Dress nicely. You'll be joining us tonight."

She paused, taken aback.

"I thought it was an important meeting for you?"

He squared his shoulders. "Can you really blame me for trying to get my wife interested in my work?"

"Yes, particularly if she routinely condemns it. The last time you tried to involve me in anything, you tricked me into marrying you." He didn't like the way she held her screwdriver towards him. He took a step backwards.

"Well, the good news is, you don't have a choice. So dress nicely, and keep your hair up. But brush it first and then put it back up. You look like a mess, and I can't have that."

He stepped into the hall shutting the door behind him. She glanced at her reflection in the small mirror mounted on the wall. He wasn't wrong; her hair was tangled and she had a grease smudge on her face, but she resented his words anyway. She rubbed at the streak on her cheekbone, but only succeeded in smudging it further. She sighed.

With any luck, he'd just want her to be in one of his god-awful plays. Of course, she frowned at her reflection, she wouldn't be here if it weren't for his god-awful plays, so really, there was no way this could go well.



"Must I really do everything?"

She glanced over her shoulder at him questioningly, already bent over the dinner she was preparing. She was dicing the potatoes when he had walked in and announced his entrance with an exasperated sigh. She turned back her work.

"I've already cleaned the table, placed the settings, and gotten out the wine. I've organized it from best to worst quality so they won't notice how terrible it is once they're already drunk, so try to keep them drinking it in order. I hate listening to them complain and then having to clean up mostly full bottles that they then refuse to touch. And," she placed the potatoes in a pot on the stove, "the dinner is almost finished, it should be done in fifteen minutes or so. So what could you possibly be so horribly inconvenienced by?"

"I'll drink my wine in any order that I want." He scowled, walking up behind her. "All I asked is that you prepare a meal and look decent. Is that really so terrible?"

"By your standards? No." She picked up a spoon and began stirring, hoping he'd get bored and leave. She jumped, startled, when he grabbed at her dress, untying the sash around the waist.

"It's like no one ever taught you how to tie a knot that wasn't being used for strange unsightly devices. I buy you nice dresses and you still manage to make them look like paper bags. How is it that I am still consistently overestimating you?"

She clicked her tongue, annoyed. "My deepest apologies, I should have known to run my ribbon-tying skills by you." He pulled at the fabric roughly, causing her to flinch. "Why do you care so much anyway?"

"I don't have time for your insolence. Your job is to look pretty, not to ask questions." He glanced over her, a grimace tugging at his lip. "Don't you have a hair ribbon that makes you look less impoverished?"

She lifted the spoon towards him menacingly. "Right, if you want to eat tonight, you need to get out of my kitchen."

Her was taken aback, his injured pride flaring in his eyes. "YOUR kitchen? Do you forget whose roof you're living under?"

She hated the way the words curled out from between his teeth, lording his favor over her.

"It was my money that paid for it." As soon as she spit out the words, she wished she could reach out and snatch them, swallowing them back down.

He grabbed her by the arm, yanking her away from the counter swiftly. She cried out at his tight grip. "You will hold your tongue and learn some goddamn respect, or you will find out the hard way that you are hardly above my wrath, do you understand?" She didn't reply, her eyes wide with fear. "You will be on your best behavior tonight, I will not be made a fool of." He dropped her arm roughly, leaving her trembling as he walked out. The door shut behind him as she sank to her knees, a single sob wrenching its way up her throat.

Chapter Text

She was quiet as she served dinner, keeping her eyes downcast. Her demureness inspired some confidence in the more hateful members, who took up prodding at her again as she walked by. It only lasted five minutes or so until she very purposefully began wielding the carving knife just a bit higher than necessarily, at which point their hands immediately retracted. She almost wished they hadn't, just to give her a excuse to use it, but fortunately or unfortunately she never met the opportunity.

They talked amongst themselves boisterously, not waiting for her to finish serving before they began helping themselves. When the last plate was filled, she softly slid into her seat beside Olaf, who occupied the head of the table, his hands pressed to his thin lips in thought. Some members of the group looked up in surprise. She never sat with them; usually she stayed in the kitchen, or if her drunken husband fancied it, would be summoned to stand by his side once they were all finished and filled with liquor, but she never JOINED them. She didn't appear to enjoy the change either, having left her own plate empty, as she sat as far back in her seat as possible. Her face was a ghostly shade, the only color coming from the purple bags under her eyes and rim of red beneath her eyelashes.

 

He leaned closer to her. "Eat, you look miserable."

She stared down at her empty plate, fighting the urge to flinch away at his words.

"May I please return to the kitchen?" Her voice came out as little more than a whisper.  

"Oh come now- if you are going to work with the crew, you really must build a rapport with them."

"I'm sure they wouldn't mind my absence." She wanted to leave, to escape. She felt dangerously unsafe sitting in this den of thieves, her arm still sore where he had gripped her.

He clicked his tongue in warning. "Now now. A man can only be as happy as his home, and a home is only as happy as the one who makes it. And so, I am generously extending the invitation for you, my glowing bride, to join us in our latest noble endeavor as a gesture of goodwill."

 

In saying this, Olaf had made a few mistakes, or more accurately, had told a few lies. Foremost, an invitation is an offering of participation in an event that is distended to a person. They are then free to accept or decline this offering as they so please, as per their own personal or scheduling preferences. Threatening your spouse and then tossing them aside can hardly be considered an invitation, let alone a generous one, especially when it is to a meal that they have cooked, and which is being held in order to coerce them into joining a plot they will most likely find morally dubious at best.

Secondly, and perhaps more sinisterly, Violet had never known Olaf to participate in nobility unless it was in the pursuit of achieving something else entirely ignoble, and so wondered what he could possibly be up to when he spoke of their "noble endeavors."

 

She looked up at him with a feeling that was comprised of both fear and suspicion. Not knowing or possibly caring about his butchery of several very important definitions, Olaf's nearest henchmen applauded his words.

He straightened his posture with the praise before turning again to address Violet, "You see, Dearest," she could feel the animosity gritting between her teeth, "we've been planning a bit of a... surprise for an old friend of ours." He fanned his fingers outward, a smile lurking on his lips.

"You... need me to plan a surprise party?" The disbelief hung in her voice. A few members of the group snickered quietly.

"Something like that." He steepled his fingers. The whispering in the room hushed as the others struggled to listen without being noticed, making her very uneasy. "We need you to find your way around- to check in without stirring up bad feelings."

She nodded, "So you want me spy for you?"

"I said she would be trouble," one woman whispered to another.

Olaf frowned before slipping back into his fake smile, obviously becoming somewhat irritated, "I wouldn't call it spying, so much as... informational reconnaissance."

"So, spying."

His face fell, becoming stony. Casually, he picked up the knife at his place setting, running his finger alongside the edge before using it to gesture at her.

"All we are asking is for you to visit with a couple of friends, maybe have a nice chat, stay for brunch. We would do it ourselves but," he shrugged, lifting the knife in the air, "some bridges have long since been burned."

The whole affair left a queasy feeling in her stomach. She was glad she hadn't taken anything to eat. She glanced around the table, feeling trapped.

He placed the knife down carefully, folding his hands on the table again, "Of course, you are free to say no, but it would be awfully disappointing if you did. I think I speak for all of us when I say it would be terribly, terribly disappointing." When she looked up at him, his eyes were drilling holes in her. She thought of her siblings and their dependence on her, steeling herself.

"Just a visit, that's all you want from me? A weird lunch with your so-called friends?"

"Wait I thought he said brunch-" The man with a silver nose's whisper was cut off by the woman beside him’s elbow to his ribs.

Olaf smiled. "All we really want is for you to join us in companionship, but yes, we'll settle for just a visit on our behalf."

Her gut told her this was a bad idea, but the idea of enraging everyone currently seated at the table seemed like a far worse one.

She fought to keep her voice steady, "Alright, I'll visit your so-called friend. But I'll do nothing more and nothing less."

He smiled, taking her hand to kiss it. "Of course, Darling. Nothing more and nothing less."

 

She tried to pull her hand back but he gripped it tight, holding it as he rested his own on the table. She didn't trust any of the people seated around her, but now was not the time to bring that up. He had warned her against making a fool of him in front of his inferiors, and while that was hardly a difficult task, it was not one she thought particularly wise to undertake at this time.

He finally let go of her hand to grip his wine glass. She glanced around the table. They were all eating ravenously, biting off large chunks of meat and laughing with open mouths. Her stomach curdled as she longed for the solace of the kitchen. The man beside her, the one missing his pinkies, pinched her arm. She pulled away quickly.

"Too skinny, you'll disappear." She glared at him but did not respond. He didn't notice, already tucking back into his food. She turned back to Olaf, lowering her voice.

"What do you actually need me for? There's no way you'd go through all of this just to have me say hello to someone."

He gestured out across the table. "They need a reason to trust you. By helping out with this small, insignificant detail, you can pretty much guarantee a spot within the troop."

"I don't want a spot within the troop." Her voice wavered as he glanced at her sharply over his wine glass, but she steadied herself, resolute. "What I need is to know is what's happening--what's the larger plan?"

He looked back away, humming a lazy note, "Don't worry about it, leave that to us."

She jabbed at the table with her finger, frustrated, "Look, if I was going to leave by now, I would have. And yet, I'm still here." She flinched as he lifted his hand, but he simply took a long sip from his glass, not looking at her. "There is literally nothing I can do to disrupt whatever it is you have going on, so just tell me what's actually happening, and I will follow through. I'd rather play a witting part than be plied with ignorance."

He chuckled humorlessly, swirling the liquid in his glass, "Clever girl. You're finally starting to figure things out." Her cheeks burned at the backhanded compliment but she sat firm. Finally he sighed, lifting his eyebrow in resignation. "We need you to help us find a safe. A viciously fortified deposit-box, if you will."

She raised an eyebrow in disbelief. "You want me to help you find someone's wall safe? You can't do that on your own?"

"Not in this household, no." He looked over at her, his face stoic. "We aren't on the... best of terms and wouldn't make it very far."

"So you're going to rob them?"

He breathed deeply, calculating his words. "In a way... yes. In a much, much, larger way, no. Will we take a delivery fee? Sure. But it's papers we're after, nothing too troubling."

 

Violet, of all people, knew that papers can be the most troubling things of all. It was a pile of papers that had placed her and her siblings in Count Olaf's care in the first place, and a very specific piece of paper that allowed him to marry her, seizing their fortune and her freedom, but she felt that this wasn't the time to point that out.

 

"You just want their papers? No death, no destruction, no grand robbery?"

"We just want the papers." He smiled.

"Why?" Her brow knitted together in confusion.

"You ask too many questions. Be glad with what you have, and we can discuss the rest later."

"If you're going to make me a part of this, I want information."

He pursed his lips, "Your constant moral dilemmas will only get in the way."

Plucking the glass from his hand, she finished it, placing it back on the table, "You don't know me or what I would or wouldn't do. Now please, tell me what's happening."

His eyes ran up and down her body, sizing her up. Finally he sighed, leaning back.

"What more information could you possibly need?"

"You said no one dies. Is that true?"

He stifled a smile, pressing his fingertips to his lips, "I never said that. That part specifically will be out of our hands."

"What do you mean?"

"We cannot control everything. If someone happens to be in the wrong spot at the wrong time, they run the risk of becoming collateral damage."

Her gut twisted, "Collateral damage?"

He refilled his glass, "This is why I kept you in the dark."

"No, no,” she held her hands up, "I can handle it, I need to know."

He smirked condescendingly, "Are you sure? I would hate to sully your fine nature."

"I can handle it." She kept her face stony.

He let out a single breathy laugh, "If you say so." Pausing, he took a moment to calculate his words. "It's all about sending a message. We need to neutralize a threat, and to let them know that we are watching."

"What message, what threat?"

"That even the safest house can still go up in flames."

She looked at him, trying to keep her voice from shaking, "What do you mean?"

He shrugged, "It's fairly straight-forward."

"You're not-"

"I'm not what?" he raised his eyebrow, "An arsonist? A murderer? A man of loose morals?"

The acid in her stomach tumbled. She looked down. Reaching out, he brushed his fingers against her jaw. "Dearest, I'm not the one in question here." She allowed her head to be tilted up towards him.

"What do you need me for?" her tone came out weaker than she intended.

"You, my Delectable Darling, have access to information and spaces that we don't. All we are asking of you is to get in and then get out."

"And the fire?"

"Is very literal and will be my responsibility. Unless of course, you were hoping to-"

"No." She interrupted him, turning her face away. He didn't offer any more information, and she didn’t press him any further for fear of upsetting him again.

He gestured to her empty plate, "Aren't you going to eat?"

She shook her head indolently, "I'm not hungry."

"Yes you are." Grabbing at the tray of food, he pushed it towards her, "The fabric of that dress is practically all that’s holding you together. Eat. I don't need you slipping through the floorboards."

She took a few potatoes hesitantly, not wanting to upset her stomach any further than her anxiety already had. He nodded satisfied as she ate a little, turning to carry on a conversation with the man beside him.

She stared down at her plate, unsure what she had just agreed to, and even less sure that she had a choice in agreeing at all.

Chapter Text

She picked up the plates quietly, trying to savor her opportunity at solitude despite her anxious fears. She could hear them in the other room, yelling and laughing. Her gut twisted at the thought of helping them, of being on the same team, but she wasn't in the moral position to risk her siblings for her own comfort.

She hummed as she worked, trying to distract herself as she stacked the cutlery together on top of the plates. Struggling beneath the weight, she tried to balance as she carried it to the kitchen to wash in the sink. Sighing, she raised her gaze up and up, looking over the piles of dishes she still had to wash. She rubbed at her neck, her face contorted into something that felt like despair.

She decided to deal with it later; it would be a good excuse to tuck herself away.

Grabbing a wet rag, she made her way back into the dining hall. Languidly, she began wiping down the table in large sweeping gestures. Her distracted humming transitioned into a slow ballad her mother used to sing to get Sunny to sleep. Closing her eyes, she braced her hands against the wood, soaking in the feeling of the solid surface beneath her fingertips.

She had made a mistake in letting her guard down, shouldn’t have let herself get comfortable around him; she was practically treating him like a friend. She sighed deeply.

"Aren't you coming to join us?" Suddenly, she was yanked back swiftly by the waist of her dress into Olaf's arms. He had a firm grasp on the bow he had tied earlier, which he looked down on in surprise, "That's actually quite handy."

Quickly pushing him away, she went back to wiping down the table, "I'm busy, do you need something?"

Walking up behind her, he placed his hands on her hips, his head lulled to the side, kissing at her neck, "Come here. It can wait."

She lifted her hands up, trying to twist out of his grasp, "I have a lot to do- I'm sorry, I-"

He held her against himself, lifting his hand to tilt her face up. She flinched away from his touch, causing him to pause before gripping her chin between his fingers, tilting her head up and then side to side, drunkenly trying to follow her movement with his eyes.

"Are you hurt? Did you get hurt?" His breath was heavy with alcohol.

She wrinkled her nose, leaning back, "Are you drunk already?"

"Yes and no. What happened, did you get hurt? Did someone hurt your face?"

She grimaced as he reached for her again, "Yes and no, now if you don't mind-"

He held her by the shoulders. "How did you get hurt? Did-"

"Please let me go!" She clutched her hands to her mouth, surprised by her own outburst. He lifted his hands from her. "I'm sorry." She whispered, sounding afraid. "I didn't mean- I- Sorry." She wrapped her arms around herself, her eyes threatening to brim over with tears as she looked down so that he wouldn't see.

 

He stood in front of her, unsure of what to say. Only this afternoon she was threatening him with the sharp end of a screwdriver, how was it that she suddenly seemed so afraid?

It was then that he noticed the marks on her arm, slightly red still from where he had gripped her when she had spoken out of turn. Silently, he folded his hands behind his back.

She looked up at him cautiously.

Looking to the side, he cleared his throat, "It was not my intent to injury you." She didn't say anything. The pause was uncomfortable. "As my wife, you deserve a certain level of kindness. Although, as I had pointed out, if you had rusty shrapnel on you, you wouldn't have to worry about people hurting you."

She laughed, a single breathy laugh; it was the closest to an apology he had ever gotten. The knot in his gut untied a bit at that.

"Here," he picked up the rag from the table, tossing it away, "this can wait."

She looked over his shoulder to where it landed, raising an eyebrow, "You do realize that now I'm going to have to clean that up too, right?

He stepped closer to her, “That's a problem for later."

She looked up at him, "Oh, are you going to clean it?"

Reaching for her softly, he pulled her closer, "It depends, what's my incentive?"

She braced herself against the looming weight of his chest as he leaned over her, “That depends. Can you do the dishes as well?"

He scowled, "I have never done the dishes in my life and I refuse to start now. We can just buy some more."

She smiled, laughing. He didn't laugh.

"Oh, you’re serious?"

"You should know my stance on cleaning by now, considering the fact that you do all of it."

She shrugged, looking down, "That's fair enough."

“Perhaps I can make it up to you in another way,” he pressed his hands to the sides of her face, lifting her up into a kiss. She allowed herself to be pulled to her tiptoes as he tipsily tried to reach her.

“Why do you have to be so damn short?" he grumbled against her teeth.

"Sorry, I'll try harder next time."

Lifting her up, he seated her on the table.

"I just cleaned that-" she pulled back indignantly. He groaned, steering her back into a kiss.

"Don't you ever stop?"

"Living with you doesn't afford me the luxury."

His hand moved from the joint of her hip, tracing down her legs. Suddenly, grasping her beneath the knees, he pulled her quickly against himself. She cried out in surprise, but his hand lifted to cover her mouth, his other holding her fast against him.

"Shh... the last thing we need is another interruption."

He moved his hand to the side of her face, pausing only for a moment before kissing her deeply. Hungrily, he made his way down her jaw, towards her neck. Despite herself, she hummed a satisfied sound, tightening the grip of her fingers.

Pulling at her, his hands dancing across her figure. He would never get tired of exploring her, of listening to the small sounds of affirmation she made as he touched her every way he could think of. Her grip tightened against his jacket, wrinkling the fabric as he rocked against her, pressing himself closer, sliding a wandering hand up her thigh. Her leg muscles tensed against his hips as her hands flew up to his neck, holding him as he nipped at her throat. He rubbed a circle against her inner thigh with his thumb. She groaned, sending his free hand up against her lips again.

 

"Quiet, Sweetness," It was weird to hear him using pet names that didn't sound like terms of possession, but her stomach fluttered at the look in his eyes, a smile spreading across his lips. "You must stay quiet." Gently, he pressed his thumb against her lips. Without even thinking, she opened her mouth just enough for him to push it between her teeth, down against her tongue.

He grabbed at her waist, forcefully pressing himself between her legs. She held back a groan as he hummed against her skin, stifling his own moan. His arousal was quite evident, and she clutched at his clothes, desperate to get closer, closer.

 

The heat of her wrapping herself around him was dizzying. He fumbled at the buttons of his pants, his hand brushing the soft skin of her thigh, sending shivers down his back. Pulling his finger from her mouth, he kissed her fiercely, trying to stifle the growing pressure at the back of his teeth as he bit back his enjoyment. She was breathing in staccatoed gasps of air, trying to swallow the humming inside her. Frantically, he dug through the pockets of his jacket. She leaned back as he opened the condom.

 

"Seriously? Do you just have those hidden all across the house?"

"I'm a highly irresistible man, I have to plan accordingly."

She rolled her eyes in disbelief, but then he was at her neck again, his hands sliding beneath her dress to grip at her hips. Quickly, with no hesitation, he slipped the elastic of her undergarments off. She yelped reflexively, causing him to press his hand to her mouth again.

The glint in his eyes betrayed his pleasure even as he reprimanded her with a shush. Pulling her face back to his, he slid his tongue against her teeth, savoring the buzz of her swallowed whine as he slid into her. A strained groan crept up his throat as she kissed him back, more and more fervently. Smiling wickedly, he pulled back, a look of clinical curiosity on his face as he slid two fingers between her lips.

 

“Shh,” he shushed her, feeling the hungry gleam in his eyes, “Good girl. Nice and quiet.” She pressed her tongue to his fingertips, a whine building behind her closed lips. “Nice and quiet for me.” He caught her chin between his thumb and ring finger, enjoying her discomfort at being balanced right on the edge of release, unsatisfied. He thrust into her more and more quickly, feeling his own climax welling within him. A more desperate whimper built in her chest, made him want to damn it all, to lay her out on the table and have her as she deserved to be had. She grabbed at his arm, arched into his touch, a gasp parting her lips as he slid his other hand down between her legs, rubbing at her clit. “That’s my girl,” he smiled as she grasped at his shirt, balling it in her fist. Sliding his fingers out from between her lips, he pulled her into a moaning kiss as her climax rippled through her, making elastic of her bones. She melted into his touch, allowing him to move her as his hands danced across her body.

He came quickly thereafter, biting at her lower lip, clutching her tightly by the hips. "Mine." he muttered, his voice gravelly through gritted teeth, quickly kissing her again before she could protest, “You’re mine.” He pushed his tongue between her teeth, savoring the feeling of her against him, their breaths slowing into a gentle metronome, leaning together to prop themselves up.

 

After a prolonged pause, he straightened up and began fixing his clothes.

"Well that was a nice reprieve, but we still have a meeting to attend. Come once you can walk again." Turning away, he left the room. Groaning, she placed her head in her hands. Her morality was shot, there was no way around it.

She had often been tempted to see the softness in him. After living with him for four years, it was easy to believe that they were both regressing towards the mean--him for the better, and her for the worse. But as she sat there, alone, it became abundantly clear that the only thing that had changed was her.

She stared into her hands, listening to the silence around her, terrified at the implications. She shut her eyes, feeling all the difference of the last four years creep along her spine. She was a part of his newest plot.

Staring at the floor, she wondered if it was really too late for her. Whatever they were up to, it was no good, and she was a part of it- she had no choice unless she was willing to sacrifice her siblings. Of course, she could always be the proverbial chink in the armor, and ruin their plan. Does it count as moral wretchedness if you enter the den of thieves specifically to foil their plans? More importantly, did her own moral inadequacies matter when stacked against a greater good? After a while, she readjusted herself, and summoning all her strength, willed her legs to carry her weight across the floor and through the hall.

Softly, she slipped into the room they were meeting in, quietly taking her place beside him. He looked up at her from his seat inquisitively.

Taking a deep breath, she willed her bones not to shake, "I'm here. What's the plan?"

A slow smile crept across his face, exposing his teeth and creating a wicked glint in his eye. He turned to face his henchmen, practically purring.

"Shall we begin?"

Chapter Text

A few members of the troop had initially eyed her warily, but not wanting to incur his disfavor, held their tongues as she tried her best to keep her composure from betraying her screaming insides.

Was this it? Was this how it began? She had often wondered how hateful people had become that way. She liked to imagine that the world was good at heart, but what use was that if the heart was so easily swayed? She tried to comfort herself in the fact that she was there in the name of goodness, but then again, couldn't any member of the hateful group claim the same? It all depended upon your measure of good.

 

"In its very basest, the plan is simple." He had steepled his fingers, the pride blooming in his voice as he unfurled the plot in bullet points, obviously smitten with his own ability.

And it was simple- there were only four steps, really.

Get in.

Get to the safe.

Extract the documents.

Burn the evidence.

 

Her heart had dropped to her feet at the mention of fire, still mourning the loss of her own home. She tightened her grip on the arm of the chair, her jaw clenched tight. Olaf had glanced at her, but then dismissively turned away, continuing his diatribe.

It was a clean plan--that was part of the problem. For all his decadence and vain dramatics, he knew how to construe a plan so simple, it could not fail. Surprisingly, his hench people seemed to play very little part in it at all. That puzzled her--she had always assumed that they were the purveyors of his dirty work, but it seemed that he had a special interest in this case.

From what she had understood, it was her job to get them in- to be the Trojan Horse of the group. She resented the comparison, but didn't protest, too busy wondering if her family too had welcomed fatal villainy into their home unwittingly. She felt sick at the notion. Seeing her pale face, Olaf had construed a recess, calling for more wine. She gladly accepted the chance to tuck herself back into the kitchen, where she now stood.

Her hands were sunken deep within the warm water as she methodically scrubbed plate after plate, slowly decimating the imposing tower. Her actions were mechanical, unthinking, her entire focus devoted to getting the stack clean. She felt frantic, trapped, but there was nothing she could do to alleviate the pressure in her chest, so she rubbed at the offending plates as if they were directly responsible for her shortness of breath. The door to the kitchen opened. She did not turn, did not look, too encompassed in her drive. Whatever it was, she could deal with it later; she just needed to get these plates clean. They had to get clean.

 

He stood behind her, watching, as she violently attacked the debris still clinging to the plates. He cleared his throat.

"Will you be returning?"

She stopped abruptly, still clutching the sponge in fingers raw from hard work, "Yes, I'll be there, I just need..." her voice trailed off.

"This is why I wanted to keep you in the dark. You have an infuriatingly tangled sense of morality. I warned you that this would only make it worse."

She turned to face him, her lips pursed, "Yes, well, I'm here now, so it's much too late for that. I may have been initiated into your… troop, but my apologies if I have a harder time than others checking my conscious at the door." A hurt anger flared in her eyes. She was obstinate. She always had been. He thought back to her 14 year old self scaling his tower.

Scowling out the window, he looked into the night, "Don't give me that. There's a reason they still don't trust you; you are completely incapable of leaving your conscience behind." She looked up at him with a chilly expression. He folded his hands behind his back, "No matter what you say, they know we can never trust your motivations towards our little group. You have a fatally predictable flaw; your hatred will never be stronger than your need to protect your family. And so," he turned to leave, "you've built your own trap." He paused mid-step, turning back to look at her. "The trick by which I caught you turned out to be an extraordinary leash." As he walked out, he let the door shut behind him.

 

She crossed her arms tightly across her chest, leaning back against the sink. He was right, in a half-truth way. Killing herself over the definitions of right and wrong wasn't achieving anything. She had to decide for herself what was noble and what was noble enough. Softly, she reached into her pocket, removing her ribbon to tie up her hair. She would just have to be self-reliant. She always had been.

 

When she reentered the room, it was with a desperate shove to the butterflies in her stomach, hoping to keep them down long enough to get some actual information. The troop hardly seemed to have noticed her disappearance, only looking up at her when she took her place beside Olaf again. After years of having her be little more than a maid to them, she'd become white-noise. She tucked the thought into the back of her mind; it might come in handy later.

Olaf, however, was only too eager to pay attention, leaning over and stroking her cheek possessively, "You've put your hair up." She leaned away from the touch slightly, an anxious crawl slithering down her spine.

"You've said you like it better  that way--don't you?" She hoped that by placating his oversized pride, she would avoid his suspicions. While he hadn't been wrong in believing her participation was rooted in the desire to protect her family, he underestimated her hatred and her ability to undermine his plot, once securely within it.

It was a simple plan, it couldn't fail, unless the actors involved weren't to play their parts.

A victorious grin slunk across his face, "My fiery Countess."

 

He turned back to his group of henchmen, practically purring. His lovely bride. His. She was stubborn, that much was unchanging, but, when nudged degree by degree, she was more malleable than she cared to admit. They had a lot in common, though she would deny it, if asked. It couldn't have been so long ago that he too had been young and idealistic. And yet, she maintained a fearful guard of her "goodness" in the face of parents' demise. Strange how different people can react to being placed in the same situation. Still, no matter, she was here now.

He settled back into his chair, a smirk still across his face, "As you well know, in reaction to the events of... a few years ago, this building has been elected as the next safe place." He unrolled a map of the city across the table before them, pointing to a section in the far corner, covered by a dark coffee stain. "If we are to achieve anything worthwhile in the long run, we need their documents- rosters, maps, anything and everything. Now," he rapped his finger against the table before leaning back again, "finding them will not be the issue, the real problem will come with retrieving them. As you know, there is a high likelihood that the safe will feature a vernacularly fastened door, seeing as they are unoriginal enough to find new methodologies, and instead, keep insisting upon new questions."

 

The members nodded in agreement. Violet looked around herself fleetingly, scanning the room. She understood every word he said separately, but put together they made no sense at all. She felt like she was missing half of every sentence, stumbling over crucial bits of information that everyone else seemed to have. She nodded too, cautiously, hoping to mask her confusion.

"As I said, getting to the safe is the easy part--we have a young, promising volunteer on our side, after all." She glanced around as they snickered at her, a tumbling lost feeling in her gut. "While there's a good chance they may initially distrust her, the very fact that she's a Baudelaire ought to get us through the door. And then," he smiled wickedly, "it's a matter of time."

Her heart skipped. What did he mean “because she's a Baudelaire?” Did these people know her parents? Did they know her? Did she know them? She clutched her hands together, trying to stay composed.

"You, my Darling," he brushed his fingers against her cheek again before tapping the tip of her nose playfully, causing her to shiver, "have the honor and privilege of being a delicious piece of bait. Knowing anything about them, they'll eat you right up." She shifted uncomfortably as the group tittered with dark laughter again, feeling an impending doom pressing against her chest. "And while we have much to do, let's focus on our first step for tonight--how we get in."

Chapter Text

She sat propped up in the bed, her back pressed against the headboard. She was curled around a thick book but her head was swimming too hazily for her to read a single word. She held it close, trying to find comfort in the weight against her hands and soft whisper of the paper. She had always been able to find solace between the pages of a book, but right now, she was too tangled in her own world to enter another. She curled her cold feet beneath her legs, tucking them in.

She heard him coming a while away, the floor groaning under his feet as he more pulled than walked himself up the stairs. She shut the book, sighing, resigned to her incapacity for attention at the moment. She needed answers.

 

She looked so delicate, he thought as he entered. The pale cotton of her nightdress only seemed to highlight the worried luminescence of her skin--she was practically see-through, her blue veins discoloring the circles beneath her eyes. He fell into the bed beside her, not bothering to undress.

"You're still reading that damn book?"

She clutched the literary brick in her folded arms, her body wrapped around it like a nest of cotton and body heat. He envied it.

"No, it's a different one." She held it up with both hands so he could see the cover--It was a worn, paperback copy which sported a rich indigo blue cover. "One Thousand and One Nights" was written across it in embossed gold letters.

He frowned, laying his head back down, "Sounds treacherous."

"It is." She looked back down, laying it back in her lap.

He smiled, teasingly, "See, for all your talk, you're just as fascinated with villainy as everyone else."

"But there's the difference-" she looked back down at him, "I know it can never win."

He traced a few fingers up and down her leg lazily, "Can't it?"

She pursed her lips but didn't respond. He continued tracing indolent circles against her skin, not really aiming to do anything but occupy his hands. She took a deep breath in.

"What did you mean by 'she's a Baudelaire'? Who are these people? How do they know me?" He didn't look up, watching his own hand, trying to find the right words, "They were associates of your parents once upon a time."

"Associates in what?"

He glanced up at her, weighing his options, "An organization. People who came together to trade secrets and abilities and books, mostly."

She frowned, confused, "My parents never mentioned any organization--you must be confused."

"They wouldn't have. Probably wanted to keep you out of it. Understandable, if impossible, really."

"No, they would have mentioned it, I'm sure. They were always honest with us-"

He groaned, sitting up, "Not to doubt the snug closeness of your little picturesque unit," she leaned away at the biting sarcasm in his words, "but there are some secrets they clearly kept."

"You're wrong- what reason would they have to do such a thing?"

"To keep you from being grabbed up by your ankles and carried away to an almost certain death at the hands of a false ideal of nobility, for one." He caught her legs in this hands, tugging at her. She shrieked, her arms flailing for a moment before she caught herself, raising her book for an instant as if to hit him, but after a moment seemed to decide against it. She stared at him coldly, not comprehending. He shrugged, "And perhaps to protect you from the truths of what their false nobility entails."

She shook her head. "I don't know what you're suggesting, but-"

"You're so quick to judge, but did your parents ever mentioned to you the price of their so-called goodness? The trade-offs they made to keep the world a quiet place?" She stared at him, unwaveringly. "Prices beyond lying to their children,” he waved the words away with his hand. “Everyone does that. Did they ever tell you about how one decides what's just, and furthermore, who is the swift hand and executioner of the kangaroo court?"

"You're not making any sense, stop talking in circles. Who are these people and what did they have to do with my family? In the plainest terms possible, please." Her jaw was clenched tightly, a familiar anger in her eyes.

"In a sentence? They worked within a group to perpetuate a defunct sense of justice, sometimes mortal, using any means necessary."

"Stop lying!" She raised her voice, her pitch going up with strain.

"It's not a lie, I was there too!" He raised his tone to match hers, ending spittingly into an uncomfortable silence. Her face paled.

"You worked with my parents? And you never told me?"

He snorted, leaning back against the headboard, "God no, it was too late by then." She watched him, silent, waiting for him to continue. He hesitated. "There was a massive split within the organization--a schism, if you will. Both sides began with the secrets and abilities and book sharing, but that was all ruptured into a murderous, burning mess." She looked down, quiet, trying to process everything she had just heard.

"And that's why you need this information?"

He pressed his lips together, "It's much deeper than you understand, but in a word, yes."

"So I'd be working directly against a cause my parents' championed?"

He sighed, folding his hands together, "It's not as simple as in your books." Reading out, he tapped the cover of the book she still held. "It was, and still is, a cause that is as indiscriminate in its use of secrets and poisons as in its use of those piles of books and codes." He paused, holding his words behind his teeth. "They expected you to die for them, and your parents did."

 

She looked down, staring at the book between her hands. He pushed himself off the edge of the mattress, treading across the room to get ready for bed. She didn't move, still stuck on everything he had said. Even when he made his way back, she was still frozen in place, her brow knit together as she tried to untangle everything she had learned.

"Here," he took the book from her, placing it on the table beside them, "we can talk more tomorrow. But for now, I'm fucking tired, and there's a lot to do still." Gently, he made his way across her, climbing into the bed, pulling up the covers across his shoulders so that it came to her knees. She still didn't move.

Groaning, he sat back up, and sliding his arms beneath her, lifted her just enough to place her back down on her side. She pushed off of him indignantly, but let herself be moved. He turned his back to her, shoving the blankets up around his shoulders, trying to ignore the gripping feeling in his gut.

He lay there sleeplessly for hours.

He was alone, save for the cold arm she had pressed against him after her breath had become heavy with sleep. At some point in the night, she had moved closer to him unconsciously, trying to get warm in the cold room.

Perhaps he had told her too much.

Perhaps he should have told her more.

There was no way to know.

He wanted to turn, to look at her face, to try to gauge the nature of her dreams, but he resisted the urge, shoving down the heaviness to the base of his spine, bottling it up.

She moved closer to him, resting her head against his back, sighing in her sleep. He leaned into the touch reflexively.

It felt like he would never sleep again.

Chapter Text

She hadn't been able to sleep.

It had seemed like he was unconscious immediately, barely having laid down before he was unconscious. She'd laid in bed for hours, trying to unravel the thoughts clanging around her head.

She felt so alone.

Slowly, hesitantly, she reached a single arm out, resting it against him. He felt warm to the touch, her fingers icy from the cold air. He couldn't be right- there was no way. But then again, what particular reason would he have for lying? How much of it, if any, was the truth?

She closed her eyes, trying to even her breath, willing herself not to think on it. She slowed her breath to match his, hoping sleep might carry her off as well. The silence plunged into her like an ill-sharpened knife, and she opened her eyes. He was still, blissfully dreaming, no doubt. Shivering in the dark, she wondered if she had ever felt so truly alone before. Probably. It was a stupid question. Softly, she moved closer, resting her head against his back. Closing her eyes with a sigh, she listened to the rhythm of his breathing as he moved into the touch reflexively. She needed human contact, some sort of reassurance in a toppling world. She felt lost, desperately so, and was willing to cling to any niceness she could get.

She listened to the sound of his deep breathing until the early morning carried her off to sleep.

 

When he awoke, it was with her cradled beneath his arm, her head pressed to his chest. Her hair fanned out all around her, creating a messy dark halo to offset her soft features. It was already day, and the light poured through the open window. He pushed himself up, bracing his weight against the mattress with his elbows. She grumbled, still half asleep, as he lifted her.

"Time to get up, we've overslept already." He squinted at the offending sunlight, sharply making its way across the floor. She sighed dejectedly, pushing herself up, tangling her hair behind her head with her hand. She seemed to realize with a start that she had been sleeping on top of him, and pulled back, embarrassed, stretching to cover the sudden jolt of movement. Sparing her, he pretended he hadn’t noticed.

Tiredly, he made his way out of the bed and over to the closet, getting ready lazily. She slid out of the bed, scurrying out of the room. A few minutes later, he heard sound of water running, and then, very softly, her humming over it. His fingers glanced over his buttons absentmindedly.

 

By the time she came downstairs, he was already at the table, looking over some papers. She slid into her seat, reaching for the cup of coffee already placed before her spot. Without looking up, he plucked it up by the handle, lifting it away from her hands. She paused, confused, before looking over at him. He didn't place it down, but continued to hold it up, keeping it hovering a few inches above the table. She reached for it again, and he pulled it away, lifting it higher out of her reach. She sighed.

"Okay, I give up, why are we playing keep-away?"

He hummed a questioning note, still fixated on his reading. She reached for her cup again, but he stood, lifting it straight up. With the unfair advantage of his height, there was no way she was going to reach it. She stared at him in disbelief.

"Really?"

He continued his reading, holding his papers in his free hand.

She slid his own mug closer to herself, taking a sip and then wrinkling her nose at the bitter taste.

"You won't like it, it's black."

"Oh, so we're speaking now?"

"We never weren't. I was just waiting for you to remember your manners."

She sighed, setting his mug back on the table, "Oh my god. Thank you for the coffee, now may I please have it?" He sat back down again, but kept the mug close to himself.

"You've still forgotten something." Begrudgingly, she leaned over and placed a light kiss on his cheek. He cocked his eyebrow, "Horrifically under-enthusiastic."

She sighed, tilting his head with the tips of her fingers until she was able to place a skirting kiss on his lips. Smiling, he slid her mug over to her.Holding the cup tight in her hands, she took a grateful sip.

"So, today-"

"Is the big day, yes." He placed the papers down on the table, finally really looking at her. He frowned. "You're not wearing that, are you?" She looked down at her dress questioningly. It was soft blue cotton, a bit worn at the hem and cuffs, but still good.

"Why not?"

Disbelief piled on his brow. "You're really no good as an actor, are you?" His words were met with a steely gaze. "We need them to take you seriously- to think of you as an adult."

"I am an adult." Her tone was defiant. She felt ridiculous as soon as she said it, like some cliché rebellious teenager.

"Then dress the part." He looked back down to his papers, sipping at his drink. She stood up indignantly, leaving her own coffee to get cold.

 

As much as he didn't want to admit it, he was nervous. He didn't like having so much of his plan rely on her giving a proper performance. Of course, she wouldn't betray him--she couldn't--but perhaps he had been just a bit too truthful last night. If she began asking the wrong questions, it could ruin everything. He stared at the script in his hand, his eyes glazed over with the thoughts churning behind them. It had been a few minutes and she hadn't returned yet. He looked to the stairs nervously. Hesitantly, he stood from his spot at the table and crossed the room.

When he opened the door to the bedroom, she was standing before his mirror, desperately trying to close the back of her black dress.

He sighed, striding over to her, taking the fabric roughly in his hands, "I'm spending a disproportionate amount of this marriage getting you into clothes." She flushed, clutching her arms against her chest to keep the fabric in place. His hands glided over the buttons swiftly, his fingertips brushing against her skin. She shivered.

 

His fingers hooked over the fabric at the top, gently resting against her skin as he pressed the last buttons into place. He smoothed the fabric over her shoulders, trailing his hands down to her hips as if frisking her.

"There. The perfect picture." He spun her around, gazing up and down her figure analytically before reaching out and tucking a stray thread into her neckline against her bust. She hummed a sour note in surprise. "Calm down, I've seen you naked." She clenched her jaw but maintained her silence. He held her out at arms length, tracing her over with his eyes. Softly, reaching his fingers towards her face, he tucked the hair behind her ear, brushing his cold fingertips against her cheek and the soft skin of her neck. He stared at her inquisitively. Looking down, she found herself embarrassed by the blush creeping against her cheeks.

He sighed, "If only you weren't so pale. It looks like I killed you." Straightening up impersonally, he dropped his arms and turned away, already occupied in his own thoughts. A twitch of indignation rose in her sternum. She looked in the mirror, pulling her long hair through her fingers. Carefully, she plaited it together into a long braid that roped down her back. He looked back up at her from his spot by the dresser, pouring over loose papers. "Good thinking- it makes you look much older." She ran her fingers over the braid. It felt so much like a noose.

He crossed the room in smooth steps, gliding behind her. As they both studied her reflection in the mirror, his hands folded over her shoulders, his fingers rolling one by one onto her bony frame. He smiled, a slow victorious smile.

"Why, they'll just eat you right up."

With a tugging in her gut, she felt afraid his words couldn't be more accurate.

Chapter Text

She stared out the window as they drove down the long roads leading to the house. The rest of the passengers were talking, creating a buzzing in her ears as she tuned them out, turning all her focus to not vomiting. She was seated in the back, the man with the hooks for hands to her left, and the man with only half an ear to her right. They both cut large, imposing figures beside her, overwhelming her petite frame. She couldn't help but feel Olaf had done that on purpose.

He was sitting in the front while the man with no pinkies drove. She silently hoped the small deficit wouldn't impair his driving ability. They were all relaxed, sitting with their legs apart, leaning back, talking comfortably. She wondered if they had ever been as nervous as she was now, and if scheming was something one simply gets used to, like the hot water of a bath. Her stomach churned.

They were driving out of the city now- the buildings becoming more and more sparse. Her soul quieted a bit at the long stretches of hills and grass- she had forgotten there could be so much green. The land looked soft, comforting compared to the harsh grid of Olaf's house (though she had lived there for years now, she still never got around to thinking of it as her own home) and the surrounding city, all right angles and precise corners. She ran her eyes over the horizon as they drove along, trying to memorize the wondrous slopes and interrupting trees. The man with hooks for hands elbowed her, snapping her out of her thoughts.

She looked up to see Olaf peering over at her.

 

"I said, do you remember everything we've gone over--everything you're supposed to say?"

She looked at him, a glaze in her eyes, "Yes."

She had already turned back to the window, a blue shade over her countenance. He frowned, "Everything?"

She glanced back to him, "Yes. Everything."

Raising his eyebrow in resignation, he turned back to the front, electing to let her sit in silence. She was smart, no doubt she did remember everything. He felt uneasy at having so much rely on her. He didn't like it when things were out of his control. Still. She wouldn't betray him--she knew better than that. No doubt she would put on a brilliant performance. It would have been better for her to go in with more ignorance, but she would play the part well. She was a clever girl, good at lying; it was about time that was put to use for his own gains.

He wondered if he ought to have put a recording device on her--something to allow him to listen back on the whole encounter. He didn't like not having access to her complete knowledge; it made choosing which information to divulge just that much more difficult. She was still in the dark as to much of it--she didn't realize that, of course. He had kept just enough behind the curtain to placate her curiosity without compromising her allegiance, letting her in bit by bit, and he preferred to keep it that way. He watched her in the rearview mirror, her lips drawn into a natural pout as she stared at the passing landscape. Her eyes were dark, as if they were absorbing the ground they crossed, memorizing it like the wax of a phonograph. He looked back to the road.

 

They arrived at the house all too soon, the sprawling mansion spilling out over the land like a dropped and forgotten piece of fabric. His henchman stopped the car a small distance short, allowing her to walk to the door unaccompanied. His man, the one with only half an ear, had only held the door open at first, not bothering to move out of her way. A steely look from Olaf, however, quickly moved him out of the seat, allowing his wife to climb out unimpeded. She paused by his window as he rolled it down for last minute instructions.

"You have everything, yes?"

"Yes." He could see the word get caught in her throat, a nervous dart in her eye.

"Very well, we'll be back soon, my dashing Countess." He held her hand to his lips, feeling the soft skin and slight bones, marveling at how very breakable she seemed. So very, very breakable. With a gentle tug of her hand, she was gone, turning her way up the long walk to the front door. The car drove off slowly, leaving her a receding shape in the mirror. He watched her until she disappeared.

 

Taking a deep breath, she desperately tried to steady her nerves as she made the long trek up to the front door. The house was beautiful, that much was undeniable; it was all wood framing and stone, a warm, inviting structure. She looked to the large windows, perfectly suited to welcome in the light, and wondered if they had a library like her parents had. The walk was lined with beautiful shrubs, nothing like the meager plants she grew in her garden. They were luscious, well trimmed, and still filled with vibrant colors despite the lateness of the season. She wondered if it would be improper to ask for a cutting to bring back for her own garden. And then, all too soon, she was before the door, a vast wooden expanse that reached higher than was strictly necessary. With a hesitant, unsteady breath, she rapped against the bronze knocker on the door.

The sound echoed, reverberating through the halls. The breeze ruffled her skirt apprehensively. A few moments passed before a woman, slender, dignified looking, opened it. She paled at the sight of Violet, holding a hand up to her mouth.

Violet stiffened her spine, renewing her resolve.

"Mrs. Quagmire--My name is Violet Baudelaire, and I need to speak to you."

Chapter Text

The woman at the door lowered her hand to her heart, breathing in jaggedly.

"Oh my- Violet- Yes of course. I'm sorry, for a moment I could have sworn you were-" she paused, a sad pallor in her eyes, "Well, no matter, come in, come in."

She opened the door nervously, ushering Violet in through the threshold. She glanced around hesitantly before shutting the door behind her.

The entryway was expansive, dripping with decadent art and expensive tapestries. Violet glanced around, trying to take it all in, surprised at how at home she felt amongst the open spaces. The home seemed to breathe with the light; the metal furnishings glittering like thousands of tiny sparks. She swallowed her heart down. Mrs. Quagmire led her into a parlor set with a fine mahogany coffee-table and several beautiful chairs, all of which seemed to beg the visitor to curl up in them with their favorite book.

 

"Take a seat. Can I get you anything?" Violet glanced over to her kind hostess, who smoothed her skirt over her knees as she perched on the edge of one of the chairs.  

"I'm fine, thank you." The words came out more whisper than she intended, but she eased herself into the chair opposite her.

"Truth be told, I was wondering when we would meet." She fiddled with her hands awkwardly, obviously uncomfortable. "I just didn't think- well, no matter." She clasped her hands tight in her lap. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"

"I need your help." She pulled the note Olaf had fabricated from her pocket. "It's a letter. I can't read it, but I think you might be able to help me."

She took the note from Violet's hand, curiously squinting at the typeface. "This is addressed to your parents."

"I know." A lump caught in her throat. "It came to me a few weeks ago, and I was wondering if you could explain to me what it is."

Mrs. Quagmire lowered the note, staring at Violet over the top of it, "Why come to me?"

She swallowed hard, "Because I also received this." She lifted a second piece of paper from her pocket, unfolding it before handing it to her. "It was folded within the letter, and lists your name and address with a strange nonsense message--at least, it seems like nonsense to me."

Mrs. Quagmire took the letter from her hesitantly, her lips pursed in thought.

"Can you read it? What does it say?”

"Nothing of importance." She folded the paper in her hand. "It's an old letter."

“All the same, I’d like to hear it, if you don’t mind.”

“Don’t worry about it. Thank you for bringing it to me, though, now if that's all-“ She moved to stand

"Wait, please!" Violet cut her off, her heart pounding. "Why can't you tell me?"

The woman stared at her, her lips still tight. She took a single deep breath in, “It’s nothing to concern yourself with, Violet. Some silly nonsense, like you said.”

“I said it read like nonsense, not that it was. Do you know something about my parents?”

“If you don't mind my saying so, you are out of your depth here. Go home, don't worry about it. It's nothing."

A stubborn fire burned along her spine, igniting her cheeks, "Did you work with my parents? Does it have something to do with that?”

The woman was beginning to become visibly perturbed, "Listen, the best thing you can do is stay out of it-"

Violet interrupted her, exasperated, "Please! All I am asking for are a few answers, nothing more. I know there are things I don’t understand going on, and I want to begin to understand them.”

“I really don’t think that’s for the best. You ought to respect your parents’ wishes and trust their judgement.”

“I don't know why my parents never mentioned you, but I know that you knew them, and I know there is something going on, and I think it might have something to do with why they died." She was already way off script, but if this woman had answers, she wanted them. "So please, if you can, help me. Why would my parents get a coded message? How did you know them? What does it say?"

Mrs. Quagmire looked her over, slowly, as if summing her up before finally meeting her eyes.

"I didn't realize this was a sad occasion."

Violet hesitated, unsure how to respond, "I'd be happy to visit for a lighter chat at some other time, but for now I really need some answers, and I think you might be the only person who can give them to me."

Mrs. Quagmire raised an eyebrow in surprise before leaning back and crossing her ankles, "What would you do with them, the answers? It’s far too late for knowledge to do you any good, isn’t it? I often find knowledge makes things more difficult, if anything.”

Violet looked down, thinking. Honestly, she had no idea what she would do with her answers. She just wanted to know, and heaven forbid she was unable to undermine the mission, this may be the only chance she got to find out. She wavered, choosing her words.

"Knowledge is a comforting thing to have, even when you can't do anything with it. I just want a better understanding of what my parents died and lived for. I thought I knew them, but I guess I was wrong, and I want to rectify that."

Mrs. Quagmire looked out the window, "Have you seen your siblings lately?"

Violet swallowed down the lump in her throat, "No. Olaf doesn't- He-" her words trailed off. She didn't want to cry in front of this strange woman.

She nodded, empathetically, "That's what I had thought." She held her breath behind her lips, staring at Violet apprehensively, thinking. "Can you come back in a day or two? There's something- some things- that I think you should see."

Violet nodded softly, trying to choke the words up her throat, "Yes, thank you, that's all I could ask for."

Mrs. Quagmire smiled at her fondly, sadly, as if she were a lost animal she took great pity on, "I'm sorry I cannot help you more for now, but if you are willing to be patient, I think I will be able to provide you with at least some of the answers you desire."

Violet's heart leapt to her throat, "Thank you, you're really too kind." She let Mrs. Quagmire gently lead her back out to the entryway.

"My husband should be here as well then--you have much to catch up on. But for now, goodbye must subsist."

Violet nodded politely, humbled by this stranger's kindness, "I can't thank you enough."

She felt peaceful, almost happy. Then the door shut behind her with a hesitant click, and all of the pent-up dread descended upon her at once with a languished pallor. Even after having only known her for only a few minutes, she felt an intense guilt at the thought of betraying Mrs. Quagmire's family. Despite the fresh breeze in the air, her lungs felt heavy. She started down the long path, back to the road, feeling more villainous than ever.

Chapter Text

She wandered along the sidewalk aimlessly, her feet kicking at the small pebbles along the concrete, ringing the announcement of her presence like tiny leper bells. Her hands were thrust deep in her pockets, balled into fists. She continued to walk, her only goal to go until her muscles tired out and she dropped down, exhausted, preferably leagues from here.
Unfortunately, the car found her before she managed such a daring escape, slowing its pace beside the road before finally stopping to let her in. The man with only half an ear stepped out, gripping her tightly by the arm as she slid onto the seat. She felt ridiculously like a victim in a cheesy mob movie.
Olaf looked at her in the rearview, his eyebrow cocked, "That was fast."
"She wants to see me again." Her words came out as a hazy whisper as she looked out the window at the passing landscape. The rolling ground now seemed to be watching her. She swallowed hard.
Olaf smiled, a creeping victorious smile, "Good… Very, very good." He looked back to the road, a thin ribbon of black that only seemed to be condemning her with every second that passed.
She felt turbulent; a tempest battled itself within her ribcage, muffled only by the clatter of her beating heart. She needed to find a way to learn more without compromising the Quagmires or her siblings. But no matter which way she turned it, there didn't seem to be a solution to the problem. Her fingers worried over her braided hair, tugging and twisting at the strands. The others in the car didn't seem to notice her anymore; she had faded back into the white noise. She let their conversation become a ringing in her ears as she dove into the depths of her own troubles.

He didn't like her silence. Glancing at her in the mirror, he could see the distant puzzle in her eyes growing darker and darker. It unsettled him, but he didn't push her any further on the contents of the meeting, hoping she might become more open in the privacy of their home.
His henchmen passed the time idly, talking amicably. He occasionally joined in, trying to give the illusion that he felt equally at ease in this situation, that he was in control and knew exactly what was happening. Still, by the time they arrived back at the house, he was ready to rush her with questions about the encounter, desperate to find out all of the information she might have.
She skirted her way into the house quickly, ducking her way upstairs. He tried to keep a reasonable pace behind her, not wanting to seem perturbed but reticent to let her get away. He cursed in his head as his men followed them in, not particularly wanting to deal with their unnecessary intrusion. They settled down in the entrance hall, talking loudly. Casting the stairs a dark look, he sat down to join them.
After a few minutes it was readily apparent that he wouldn’t be able to concentrate on a word they were saying--their talk was so trivial and dull, it bored him greatly to just listen to it, let alone participate in it. They didn't notice his silence, too absorbed in their own conversations to pay attention to almost anything else. After an excruciating length of time, he stood briskly, pacing across the room.
"Go fetch some more liquor--we'll need it."
They stood obligingly, leaving the house in pursuit of drunkenness. Swiftly, he climbed the stairs, only steadying his pace when he drew close to the room, trying to give the illusion of indifference as he opened the door softly.

Standing in front of the mirror, she tried desperately to undo the buttons along her back. She felt suffocated under the fabric, like it held all the day's treachery in the folds and seams of its lining. Olaf came up behind her quietly, moving her hands out of the way. She held the front of the fabric to her chest as he unbuttoned the back, letting his fingers brush against her skin absentmindedly.
"You've been awfully quiet,” his tone was accusatory, prompting. She shrugged the best she could without throwing the dress off her shoulders.
"There's not much to say. I gave her the letter and she asked me to come back when her husband is home."
"That's all?" His voice became a deep, mistrusting purr.
"That's all."
He helped her lift the dress over her head, leaving her feeling rather ridiculous in a slip and shoes. She perched on the edge of the bed, pulling off her heels.
"She didn't have any other sort of information for you? I hardly believe the whole thing could be quite as boring as you're making it out to be." She looked up at him to see his accusatory look. “You're not withholding anything from me, are you?"

He leaned down before her so that they were face to face, his eyes level with hers. Placing his hands on either side of her, he braced himself against the edge of the bed so that she couldn't avert his gaze, which she met coldly.
"You couldn't possibly have expected much more."

"No, not unaided, but you're a curious girl, and I've learned to account for any meddling that might involve." She felt her insides quiver at his closeness, willing an indignant blush not to rise to her cheeks. Pausing, he lifted his chin so that he was looking down at her. "Having second thoughts, are we?"

She hesitated, giving herself time before she spoke, "I don’t want to help you destroy good people."
He smiled, patronizingly regarding her, "I was wondering when we would come to this.” He straightened up, making a big show of it. "A few minutes with her and she's already fit your bill of nobility, has she?" Violet didn't answer, waiting for him to get to his point. "That's the way all things are, Darling. You've simply got to wait for them to peel back the layers. Dishonesty is easy to hide. Have a little patience," he stood her up, pulling her to him by the arm, "you'll see soon enough."
"What is that supposed to mean?" This time, it was her voice that rang with accusation. He smirked, tilting her chin upwards.
"Now now, my Pet. I just said you must have patience." Infuriated with his tone, she pushed off him, turning to the closet to put on a new dress.
"You can either expect me to help you or you can withhold information from me, but you can't do both."

"My Dear," striding towards her, he closed the space between them, causing her to back into the wardrobe, "you seem to have severely misunderstood the dynamics of this relationship." She regarded him coldly. "My advice is that you make up your mind to participate for you own sake, because if you're picking sides by their body counts, you're going to have one hell of a time trying to decide."
She clenched her jaw, feeling the possibility of killing him rising up within her again.
Softly, he receded, a curious smile on his face that did not sit well within her.

Chapter Text

She didn't come down that night, not caring whether or not she incurred his wrath. She didn't want to see him or his troop- she wanted to be alone. She didn't bother redressing, climbing into the bed in just her slip, pulling the covers around her as she opened her book. She needed to escape, if just for a moment. There was nothing for her to do; she was damned if she did and damned if she didn't. Although her morally dubious husband didn't have a problem gambling with lives, the thought made her feel sick.

She thumbed through the pages mournfully, hoping to find some kind of answer or solution. However, as the night stretched into darkness she found neither, though she did find, tucked somewhere about ten pages in, a period of solace as she slipped into a story more treacherous than her own. The turning of the pages became a soft lullaby, and though it did not remedy her problems, it at least alleviated the strain on her shoulders, letting her find comfort if only for a moment.

 

He kept glancing at the stairs, waiting for her to come back down, but she never did. He looked away, convincing himself that he did not care, that she could be stubborn and damn confusing all she wanted and it didn't affect him at all. He kept reminding himself of how little he cared until it became a desperate mantra of sorts.

Shortly after he came back downstairs, his men had arrived with plenty of alcohol and a few more assorted members of the crew. They carried themselves in exuberantly, loudly filling the halls with their noise, causing him to notice for the first time how they acted like they owned the place. It irked him.

Settling into his chair, he lounged back languishingly, his brow furrowed in a pout.

"Where's the missus? She didn't escape, did she?" One of his men, the one with the silver nose, chided him, elbowing him lightly. Olaf looked at him coldly.

"Don't be ridiculous—her legs are too short, she couldn't run fast enough if she tried."

The man cleared his throat awkwardly, shrugging. One of the women, the tall lanky one, leaned over his shoulder, interrupting the conversation.

"What is your dear Puppet making for dinner? I'm just about starved." She brushed at his hair with her long fingers, her sharp nails manicured a violent red.

He brushed her hand aside, "She isn't. She's busy... tiling the bathroom." He hesitated, not wanting to betray his softness. The woman frowned, taken aback momentarily before shrugging it off.

"Oh. Oh well. I'll have Georgie whip up something." She snapped her fingers to the man with no pinkies, calling him over. He stopped listening to them, and instead just watched as they sat and talked and laughed and drank and stubbornly refused to be Violet. He tried to stifle a scowl. The lean woman slid onto the arm of the chair beside him. Looking up at her, he raised his eyebrow quizzically. That was his chair. No one else was supposed to sit in it. She leaned against his shoulder, pressing a glass of wine to him, her smile large and offending.

"Come along, what has you so bothered? It went well today, didn't it?"

"Of course it did," He snatched the glass from her. "I planned it, didn't I?"

She shrugged lightly, teasingly, “Then why so glum? Perk up." She trailed a finger under his chin, causing him to lean away from her touch, scowling. She giggled infuriatingly. "You always were so temperamental. You artists, my god."

With a light bounce, she stood, off to wreak havoc somewhere else. Leaning back to the center of his chair, he drank deeply; there was nothing to do but tolerate the presence of his friends a while longer.

"So tell us, what happened?"

A few of them sat in the seats around him, looking towards him expectantly. Playing a satisfied grin across his face, he tried to hide his sullen mood.

"There's not much to report- it went perfectly as planned, and we have our in."

They buzzed with excitement, whispering to one another. He straightened his shoulders with pride.

"And the girl- she's cooperating?"

"Leave Violet to me, she's the least of our worries." A few of them stared blankly. He paused. "The girl. My wife. Her name is Violet." They nodded, as the understanding dawned on them. Groaning, he looked away. Imbeciles.

 

She enjoyed the blissful silence, soaking in the opportunity to be alone for once. The voices of the people downstairs carried up and under the closed door, but Olaf never came to collect her, and so she never offered her presence.

It had been ages since she’d had a night to herself. Tucked beneath the soft sheets, she could almost feel safe. Of course, she absolutely wasn’t, but it was nice to be reminded of what it felt like. As the night wore on, the voices quieted to a background hum as members began to leave, slowly trickling out. Olaf himself didn't come up until much much later, looking grumpy and generally distressed when he did. He placed a bowl on the dresser before pulling off his clothes aggressively, tossing them to the floor and falling straight onto the bed. She glanced at him over the cover of her book.

"So I take it you had fun?" Stifling a laugh as he glared up at her, she looked back down to her book. "Always glad to see things going so swimmingly."

 

Her comfortable air bothered him. It was almost like she enjoyed not being around him. Rolling onto his back, he looked up at the ceiling.

"I was seduced tonight,” struggling, he fought the urge to glance up and see if she was jealous. He heard a page turn.

"Hmm. That would have been awkward if it were true, what with me being in the bed and all."

"She sat in my chair."

"Oh wow,” her voice was a monotone hum.

“It was really good. She's not irritatingly short like you. And her hands are just so beautiful--long fingers that don't look anything at all like yours."

"Good for her. Make sure you don't start making her do the dishes—it wears them down quick."

Looking up at her, he frowned, no longer able to hide his annoyance.

"Shouldn't you care that your very affluent and charming husband is about to publicly shame you with a scandal?"

She turned the next page, "You didn’t sleep with her."

He growled, "You don't know that- I am a man with many needs and lots of beautiful women willing to satiate them."

She still didn't look up, "You said she sat in your chair."

“And?”

“You hate that.”

He pushed himself up, glaring at her condescendingly, "You've sat in my chair before."

"Correction- I've sat on you while you were in your chair. And only after you had put me there yourself."

He scoffed, "You're being preposterous."

Finally looking up, she lifted an eyebrow, "Really?"

"Yes." He squared his shoulders, offended.

"So you wouldn't mind if I started taking your chair?”

He paused for a moment, thinking, "On the contrary, I would find it highly erotic."

"Alright then." Rolling her eyes, she looked back down to her book.

It was perfectly maddening. For the first time in years, she seemed entirely impervious to being riled up. He scowled.

“What are you trying to imply? That I am not a highly sought-after man? Are you accusing me of lying?"

Sighing, she placed her book down, looking at him exasperatedly, "Okay, what's happening? Why are you trying to pick a fight?"

He pulled his head back, offended by the accusation, "Picking a fight? Can't a man have a simple conversation with his wife for the first time all evening without her accusing him of outrageous things?"

 

Looking at him flatly, her voice became an empty monotone, "Oh my god. You missed me."

Anger and injured pride flared up in his eyes, "Excuse you, orphan—I had a wonderful time with my henchmen, some of whom are beautiful women, and quite frankly, enjoyed the leave of your nagging presence."

She looked at him tiredly, "Okay, can I please just read my book then?"

"Please do; I could use some quiet from your irritating attitudes." Laying back down on the bed, he folded his hands over his chest for a few silent seconds that ticked by painfully slowly. "Also, you missed dinner so I brought it up for you."

 

She turned to him the moment he began speaking again, prepared to be annoyed, but was instead surprised by the kindness of the gesture.

"Oh. Thank you."

Standing up, he took the bowl from the dresser, bringing it to her.

"You need to eat more. You'll wither away to nothing and then I'll have to find a new heiress to marry."

She raised an eyebrow at his biting and only potentially sarcastic words as he offered her the still warm bowl of overcooked pasta.

"Well then, I would hate to inconvenience you by dying."

"Keep it in mind."

Laying back down again, he propped himself up by his elbows, picking her book up, "What is it with you and reading books twice your size?" She looked up at him exasperatedly as she ate a forkful of the pasta. "I'm serious- you only ever read books you could use to kill someone."

She almost choked, covering the sound with a cough as he weighed the book in his hands.

"This weighs, what, fifty pounds? You could easily drop it on someone, and that would be that."

She rolled her eyes, trying very hard to look unperturbed, “Only you would think of that."

Shrugging, he placed it back down again, "The fact that you haven't should be comforting at least."

There was a quiet pause as she picked it up, moving it to her nightstand, "I'm surprised you didn't try to take it for ransom."

Looking up at her, a scheming glint shone in his eye, “I’m surprised at you, Countess. I hardly think you’d still need an reason to admit to wanting me, but if you’re looking for an excuse, I'm sure I could supply something."

She rolled her eyes at him, continuing to eat her dinner. "You're unbelievable."

Climbing under the covers, a gravelly hum rang in his voice as he ran his fingers against her leg, "And yet you can't resist me."

She pulled back sharply, “Go to sleep, you’re drunk.”

He moved in closer, pressing a warm and unnecessarily slow kiss to her jaw before drawing back to lay down. She glanced at him in irritated disbelief as he turned on his side so that his back faced her, finally going to sleep.

She stayed up for a while longer, reading until the late night took her into a soft sleep as well.

Chapter Text

She awoke softly, sleepily, curled around her book protectively. She flexed her muscles a bit, appreciating the warm bed, and then quickly realized she was caught in a tangle of lanky limbs. He was curled around her, his face pressed to the back of her neck, breath slow against her skin. His arm was hitched over her waist, holding her against him. His hand, having slid beneath the fabric of her slip at some point during the night, was resting against the soft skin at the front of her ribs, and with his leg kicked over hers, he had effectively trapped her beneath his dead weight.

She tried to gently twist her way out, but he only muttered in his sleep, pulling her back to him. Uncomfortable with the niceness of the warm gentleness of him against her, her heart began to beat fast; he was almost kind when he was unconscious. He sighed into her hair and she froze, clenching her eyes shut, willing him not to wake up. He didn't stir beyond the movement of his hand, gliding down to her stomach, the feeling of his cold fingers against her bare skin sending sparks tumbling throughout her. She clenched her jaw, firm in her desire not to enjoy his presence.

She needed to not waver in her convictions, to remain in steadfast condemnation of every aspect of him. She could not be swayed--after all, he was no more than a selfish murderous bastard. She glared at him over her shoulder, though His sleeping form didn't seem to notice her disdain. Gently, she began to ease herself up, out from his reach, but his hand slid against her skin, tugging at her lightly as she gingerly slipped out of his clutches. He sighed in his sleep, rolling closer to her vacated space, but did not stir.

Softly, tiptoeing lightly, she made her way out the door.

The kitchen was quiet, just the barest rays of morning light streaming through the windows. She sighed at the dishes and bottles left out from the night before, sitting in a pile, waiting for her to clean. Drawing some water from the sink, she filled the coffee pot and set it to boil. It was always nice when she was the first one awake--the world was quiet then. She moved unimpeded across the room, humming softly to herself, enjoying the time she had alone.

 

He awoke, feeling unusually cold. Reaching out, he attempted to pull Violet to him in order to siphon some of her warmth, but only found empty sheets in her place. Sitting up groggily, he looked about the room. She was already gone. Softly, he recognized the sound of humming carrying up the stairs. So she hadn't escaped. Forcing himself out of the bed, he flinched at the coldness of the room.

When he came downstairs, she was sitting at the table, pouring over a book as he slid into the seat beside her unobtrusively.

"I kept it black."

He nodded, lifting the cup placed before his chair to his lips. She was leaning against the table, bent over whatever the hell it was that she was reading now. It was much thinner, much less menacing looking. He frowned.

"What is that?"

She looked up at him before glancing back to her book and lifting it so that he could read the title. The cover was bound in green cloth, the words "Scottish Folk Tales” scripted across the front in black ink. He raised his eyebrow, taking it from her hands, glancing over the pages.

"What the hell is a Tam Lin?"

"Something you wouldn't know enough to care about." Her words were sharp but her tone was humorously reproachful, so he let it slide. He shrugged, handing it back to her.

"You're a very strange woman."

She held the book in her grateful hands, softly closing it and placing it on the table, "I do what I can to survive."

"Don't we all." He took another sip of his coffee.

 

"So-" she started, her hesitancy betrayed in her tone, "tomorrow..."

"You go back, yes." She sat quietly, gripping her cup so that it burned the pads of her fingers even as her body anxiously implored her to let go. "We're almost through the first step." He paused. "You are going to cooperate, yes?"

She looked up at him, a scornful pallor in her eyes, "I don't have much of a choice, don't I?"

He stretched before standing up, pushing the chair in, "No, I suppose not.” Turning to go, he paused. “Oh, I've almost forgotten.” Taking her face in his greedy hands, he tilted her head up towards him, kissing her hard and deep on the mouth. She pulled back, surprised. He smiled down at her condescendingly. "And that is how you give a thank you kiss."

Turning once again, he left the room, leaving her confusedly dizzy behind him. She placed her face in her hands, leaning against the table. She would only have to play along with his game for a while longer. In the meantime, she needed to do everything in her power to make sure she was prepared for the next day--she needed to take advantage of the opportunity, even if it was ill-gained. She needed some answers, and it was abundantly clear that he was not going to be providing them.

 

 

It took him a while to find her again after breakfast. She had tucked herself away in the laundry room, busily scrubbing at a stain on some piece of clothing.

“There you are.”

 

She jumped, startled, her hand held over her heart, “My god, you scared me.”

“Wasn’t my intention.” He walked over to her, holding out a letter in his hand. “This is yours.”

She took it from him gratefully, eagerly tearing it open as he left the room. Klaus’ handwriting filled the page, smushed together to fit in as much as possible. Unfolding it, she sat back on the floor as she read, biting at her thumbnail.

As she expected, Klaus sounded worried about her. That was always a given; no matter how often she had tried to persuade him that she was fine, he refused to believe her. She generally wasn’t, of course, but having him worry wouldn’t do anything to make it better. He seemed excited about her latest invention, the scrubbing machine, and begged for more details in her following letter. He also promised to help her with her organizational machine as soon as they were reunited. Her heart sank, and she held the paper down for a moment, trying to compose herself. Crying would do no good. Breathing deep, she continued to read.

He implored her, as he always did, to leave the house and come with them. She closed her eyes. Of all her selfish desires, that was the one that bubbled to the surface most often. She wanted nothing more than to leave everything behind and be with her family again, but she had promised her parents to protect them, and protect them she would. And yet…

A small voice in her head began to nag at her, reminding that that there was always another option. She continued to bite at her nail, dubious of her abilities. She couldn’t—there was no way. She didn’t have the ability to murder, she couldn’t have blood on her hands. Unless…

She held the paper in her sweaty palms, the beginning of a plan forming in the back of her mind. Carefully, she reached into her pocket, pulling out her ribbon.

 

He stood behind the door, listening. He heard the ruffling of paper and the occasional sigh, but nothing beyond that. Sometimes he regretted allowing her the letters—you can’t eavesdrop on a letter, infuriatingly enough, and she always sent her own off so quickly, not allowing him the chance to even think about reading them. He tried to peek behind the door.

She crashed into him, startling both of them.

“Oh! I’m sorry.” Her cheeks were flushed, eyes bright with almost-tears. He didn’t say anything, regarding her clinically as she ducked her head down, skirting around him before speed walking down the hall. He watched her, scowling, as she went, scurrying into her room.

 

“Have you finished?”He pushed the door open, walking in after her. She turned towards him stiffly, her hair was tied up into a messy ponytail. He cocked his eyebrow, “Jumpy, are we?”

She blushed, closing her drawers absentmindedly, "Sorry, what were you saying?"

"The laundry- did you finish it?"

"Oh," she glanced into the hallway, "no. Sorry. I'll go do that." As she went to walk past him again, he caught her by the arm, pressing her to the wall. OHe towered over her, leering down, "Why so distracted?" She swallowed hard, searching for words. "What has such a pretty face so preoccupied?" She looked away, embarrassed. He reached out to her, lifting her chin to make her look up at him. Leaning down, he kissed her forcefully. Her hands stayed at her side, her fingers almost fluttering up and then settling into fists. He pulled back, his hands still on the sides of her face. "Get yourself under control- I need you sharp for tomorrow."

She swallowed hard, nodding quietly. Turning, he left the room, and her, silently behind.

 

She glanced around, feeling despondently guilty. Her gut nagged at her, begged her to reconsider, but she was out of time—there were no other options. She felt her own damnation pressing hard against her back. Wrapping her arms around herself, she shivered.

Pulling out the chair at her desk, she sat down, placing a clean sheet of paper in front of her. She chewed the end of her pen nervously. Best not to tell her siblings about her plan just yet—this was her burden to bear. Logically, she knew they both deserved to know the information she had since gathered about their parents, but felt an overwhelming sadness at the part her own wretchedness played in that story. Her heart ached at the thought of her brother and sister knowing of her own wickedness; she was supposed to be strong for them. Nervously, she lifted the pen, trying to detail the knowledge as best she could while leaving convenient holes in the story, filling three pages by the time she reached its end. Carefully, she folded the papers into a fresh envelope which she placed in her drawer for mailing later before slowly making her way back out of the room, treading down the hall to finish her work.

 

He didn't like the look he had seen in her eyes—it was the same look he often recognized in himself before he succeeded in one of his many schemes. Perhaps she was only getting on board with his plans, finally realizing it was the smarter option. He couldn't quite believe that though—she was too stubborn for so swift a change in demeanor. Nervously, he rubbed at his face. She was strong willed, and that made her untrustworthy. And yet, he had little choice but to trust her; his own plan demanded it. She wouldn't sacrifice her siblings, he kept reassuring himself—she was too morally retentive for that. Still, he felt an unrelenting ache in his mind as the day slipped slowly towards evening.

 

Her heart tugged at her as she scrubbed the resistant stains from his clothes. It seemed like an awfully futile thing to do, but her hands were glad for the occupying work. She worked the dark smudges over and over in the hot water, but they never seemed to fade. She hoped it wasn't blood. Shivering, she resolved not to think on it.

She was continually amazed by the amount of trust he put in her. Granted, he held her by a tight leash, but he really did trust her around himself. And she could almost say the same, she mused, disgusted. She had allowed herself to become comfortable around him, and he relished that. She felt grimy relying on his jealous pride to protect her, but protect her it did. In fact, it seemed to be the only thing she had going for her. She was a trophy, and with a deafening thud in her gut, she wondered what would happen when she became less enviable in his eyes. Swallowing hard, she decided it must never come to that.

 

He resisted the urge to walk back into the laundry room—she would think he was spying. But the truth was he was so very bored without her. He was too anxious to read his scripts, and far too agitated to sit still for long, and so he paced throughout the house "accidentally" passing the door to the small room several times, each time hoping she would appear with a clatter and run into him again. She never did.

He made his way back to the kitchen, tapping his fingers anxiously against the counter as he walked. Plucking up the nearest bottle, he poured himself a glass of wine, hoping to calm his nerves. A plan hadn’t made him this nervous in years. It all hinged upon tomorrow, upon her ability to stick to her task. If she muddled it up, it would make him look bad, and he really couldn't afford to be undermined on such a large risk in front of his crew. Taking a look at the glass, he placed it down, picking up the bottle instead.

Chapter Text

He was surprised to find her in the entry hall, curled around the same book she had been reading earlier. She has tucked herself into his chair, her feet folded beneath her. He frowned, pausing in the doorway. She looked up as she heard him, lowering the fingernail she was biting from between her teeth. Striding across the room nonchalantly, he tried to give off the air that he hadn't noticed her missing presence.

"Already finished with your work?"

 

She shut her book. She hadn't been able to read it anyhow, her racing thoughts keeping her occupied.

"Yes, for a bit anyway. I'll get started on the dinner soon."

"I presume you know enough to make yourself presentable again?" There was a slight strain to his tone as he looked away, obviously trying to seem distracted. She stared at him, wary.

"I would hate to soil your fine reputation."

Looking down at her, he frowned, "You watch your tongue or I may find occasion to cut it out."

Rolling her eyes at his threat, she leaned back into the chair, "Yes, of course." She was used to his antics by now; they had even become somewhat boring.

He strode towards her, "Do you underestimate me?"

"I don't believe that's possible."

She met his gaze, a cold shiver running down her spine. And yet, she found that she wasn't afraid of him; he seemed so human now. Had he always been this breakable?

Scowling, he leered above her, placing his hands on either side of the chair so that she had no route of escape, "Do you forget who you are speaking to?" She met his eyes, unmoved. "Need I remind you that you are MY wife, living under MY roof, and as such, answer to ME?"

 

She was in an infuriatingly unresponsive mood.

"No need to remind me- I hardly have the opportunity to forget about you."

He was burning inside. This was a new type of insolence, and he would not stand for it. He gripped her chin tightly, lowering himself so that their eyes were on level. Her expression didn't change.

"You will not speak to me with disrespect."

"Then I won't be able to speak to you at all."

"What is all this about?" He sneered patronizingly, "Feeling the need to act out all of a sudden? Gotten a bit too comfy, have we?"

She tried to swat his hand away, but he caught her tightly by the wrist.

"Can't you just let me alone?"

"Not until you remember your respect."

"Are you really so bored that you have to rely upon torturing me?"

He hid his grimace, tightening his grip on her wrist, "I would hardly call speaking to your dearest husband torture."

"I don't want to talk to you." She pulled against his grip, attempting to free herself.

He smiled condescendingly, "Is that the lie you're telling yourself now? Still playing at disinterest?"

"I don't know what you're talking about, now just stop being so… you, and go find someone else to bother."

She tried to turn away, but his hand snapped her face back towards him, his voice a deep purr, "Someone else? Why would I bother with all the trouble, when you’re already so thoroughly mine?"

"I don't belong to you."

"All the same, you are mine."

"And what is that supposed to mean?"

"I hardly think it's quite so difficult to grasp."

"What could possibly ever make you believe that you own me? Was it my open disdain? My hatred? No, let me guess, every way I’ve ever told you to go to hell?"

He smirked, "Why, Darling," his voice had a dark tone to it as he tightened his grip on her, "you've made it so by your own choice."

"You're delusional."

Placing his knee between hers, he stopped her attempt at sliding out, "I'm not wrong, though."

"You absolutely are. I have never been, and will never be, yours."

Shaking his head slowly, he smirked, "Oh, but you've already lost on that account, Darling.” He let go of her face roughly, using his now free hand to grip her leg, “As a matter of fact, you ENJOY being mine. It requires a lot less work on your part."

She scoffed, "Now THAT'S insane. You're absolutely unbelievable."

Leaning in close, he stopped just short of her lips, enjoying the nervous tremor of her hitched breath. "Oh come now, tell me I'm wrong." She didn’t move, frozen in place, their mouths a practically negligible distance apart. He lowered his gaze to glance down at her lips, parted in a shaking breath. Slowly, giving her plenty of time to rebuke him, he ran his hand back down her thigh, tucking his fingers beneath the fabric of her skirt. As he slid back up, up the open expanse of her leg, he saw her tongue press to the back of her teeth, wanting to close the distance but entirely unwilling.

 

He touched her so gently it sent her head spinning, made her briefly question everything she knew about him. Resolute, he remained unfairly close, his lips hovering over her own. He was so stubborn, so painfully, awfully stubborn. But then his hand slid up to her waist, and she let out an embarrassingly loud gasp despite herself as he pulled her forward into his grip. Smirking, he kissing her firmly, fingers tight against her skin. She lifted her free hand to his chest, bracing against his weight.

 

Dropping her wrist, he pressed her against the chair, using the firm back as leverage to get a better angle towards her mouth. She turned her head, trying to get a breath of air. His pride purred within him; he had been right the other night- seeing her take his chair had been highly erotic. He bit along the soft skin of her throat, careful not to leave too dark marks, enjoying the open feel to her craning neck. As much as she berated him, she enjoyed him, though she would never say so willingly; she was too tied up in her pride, too stubborn to admit anything, even when it would give over to something she wanted. And judging by the slight movement of her knees beneath his hands, he was something she wanted.

Her stifled moans were vibrations against his skin. As much as she tried to hide them, she couldn't quell the telltale signs which readily betrayed her - the pink of her cheeks, flick of her eyes as she shut them. She really was too stubborn for her own good.

"Just admit it, you already know it's true." He whispered the words against the hem of her neckline, nipping at the soft skin he exposed along the way. His hands slid back up her skirt, his fingers fanning out to rub over the taunt muscles of her thighs.

Shifting back, she brought her hands to his shoulders, pushing him away, "I don't know what you're expecting me to admit, but I'm certain that you won't get it."

He smirked, amused at her red countenance and stern words. She put on such a show. His hands wandered further up.

"Admit that you are eager to see me, that I am not the most horrible thing to have happened to you."

"I can't say that with a clear conscience."

Smirking wickedly, he pressed down against her, "Then at least admit that you enjoy the thought of me touching you."

She clenched her jaw, indignant, "You're revolting."

 

Leaning in, he interspersed his words with kisses against her skin, humming against the warmth of her neck. His voice was low, deep, more murmur than speech.

"As a matter of fact, you don't just enjoy it. The thought of me touching you excites you."

She rolled her head away, flustered, trying to think up a sharp enough retort. His voice was a whisper against her skin, gravelly, more texture than sound, "You catch yourself thinking about it, don't you? My hands, your lips. My pretty little wife. You can't quite seem to shake as nasty a habit as I, can you?" She whimpered, her hands against his shoulders, threatening to push him away at any moment even as his fingers graced over the bone of her hips, brushing down to her inner thigh. "My poor, lonely, little wife. Poor Violet. Too stubborn to admit that even you get cold at night—just admit it, you're only human, after all." Softly, he brushed two fingers against her over the cloth, teasing her dreadfully. She pulled in a shaking breath, trying to drown the whine that was threatening to escape her. Biting at her ear, he pressed himself against her, "Tell me, do you ever touch yourself and wish it were me?" She gasped a staggering breath as he slipped a single finger beneath the hem, touching her feathery light. Smiling, he broke away from her neck long enough to look down on her, his face dripping with mock surprise. "I'm going to take that as an emphatic yes. My my my, it does not take much, does it?" Victoriously smug, he lowered himself so that he was between her legs.

"Fuck you." Her words came out shakily, but the intent was there.

He smirked, amused, "No no, ladies first, I insist."

Gripping her by the backs of her thighs, he slid her towards himself, perching her on the edge. She braced her hands against the arms of the chair, surprised as he moved her. In a swift movement, he removed the unnecessary hassle of her undergarments before pressing his fingers against the insides of her thighs, holding her in place.

And then her hand was fluttering to her mouth, trapping the gasps that sought to escape. She pressed her weight against the back of the chair, desperate to swallow down any signs of pleasure. But then he was holding her tight, gripping her hips, and a moan slipped past her, escaping from between her teeth. She resented its needy tone, hated the truths it told. He moved against her wonderfully, his slick tongue pulling moans from places she didn't know they hid, involuntarily curling her toes, making a clatter of her joints as they buzzed with illuminance.

 

She was adorable when caught off guard, all flustered movement and quick hands. She moved back reflexively, causing him to tug her back into place. She seemed so unsure of herself--it was a welcome change of pace from her normal certainty. It was endearing to see her so uncalculating, almost messy in nature. Her one hand gripped the arm of the chair, her knuckles white with the pressure, while the other remained pressed to her lips, trying to force back the rumbling groans he was pulling from her as she whimpered against her tight fingers. She was a beautiful prize. He kissed along the skin of her thighs, delighted at the way her leg loped over his shoulder. Sliding his hands beneath her dress, he dug at the flexing skin and muscles, trembling under his touch. It was delicious to behold.

Watching her, he leaned against her leg, glowingly content. Stubborn as ever, she turned her head aside, not wanting to meet his eyes. His lips buzzed against the soft skin on the insides of her knees, trailing kisses which gradually turned to purple bites as he wandered further down.

"Just admit to it, that's all I ask."

"I have nothing to admit." Her fingers were clenched across her eyes as her other hand still gripped the chair, making a violent show of her attempt to seem unperturbed.

"I'll go first then--you always are accusing me of keeping secrets anyway." His hands slid up against her beneath her dress, rubbing the flushed skin of her ribs as he continued his work along her leg. "I think about you—you beneath me, pressed between me and the wall, me and the floor, me and the mattress.” Tugging her dress up, he placed wanting kisses along her abdomen. “I think about you a lot. I think about all the sharp skill of those wonderful lips, and the very wonderful sounds they make when you do find yourself beneath me." She moaned involuntarily as he lifted himself up, pressing against her, his lips again situated firmly against the crook beneath her ear. Her hands caught onto his shoulders, shakily holding him. "I think about you letting me press you into the bed, going deeper and deeper inside you, trying to find out how many times I need to make you come before you finally call out my name. I think about you unhinged." He rocked himself against her, her eyes still covered, and she whimpered slightly at the pressure of his quite evident erection against her. He bit at her neck as his fingers wandered back between her legs, teasing her lightly. "I think about how perfectly delectable you are, and how easy it would be to have you, and how much more delicious it is to see you thinking your own thoughts, wanting your own wants, pressing yourself against me willingly. I love seeing you topple. My lovely little wife. So perfectly dainty and wonderfully fuckable."

 

He punctuated the last word by smoothly sliding a finger inside her, drawing a heavy gasp from her in her surprise. She clung to him, her fingers tight to the back of his neck, pulling him down into an open-mouthed kiss. Steadily, he continued his work, rubbing against her. She ground her hips down towards his hand, everything else becoming collasily unimportant when faced with this brutal almost-release. Her hands brushed over his shoulders, down his back, only trying to draw him closer, closer, her moans becoming a near-constant hum of need.

“There, that’s good,” he smiled the words as he kissed her, his greedy tongue filling her mouth, “That’s what I like to hear.” His hand ran across her and she gasped, arching against him, sparks flying beneath her eyelids, in the back of her skull, in the spaces between her bones. Quickly snapping open a few buttons on the front of her dress, he moved his lips across every available inch. Withdrawing his touch, he gripped the bottom of the dress, pulling it up and over her head more quickly than was strictly necessary. Palming her breast, he kissed along her chest, her shoulder, her neck, his tongue warm against her skin.

 

She cried out beautifully as he slid inside her, her fingers wrinkling the fabric of his shirt. He stifled her shout by pressing his tongue into her mouth, savoring the feeling as she bent beneath him, allowing him entrance. She did enjoy him, and she couldn't disband that fact no matter how often she denied it. Her gasps became staccatoed hiccups of air as he rocked himself into her at an increasing speed, her worried fingers gripping him tighter, tighter. Her arms hooked around him, holding her face against the crook of his neck, flustered and radiant and burning with pent-up energy. He pounded into her, pressing her to him by the hips, desperately wanting to hear her finish wrapped around him, surrendering beneath him. She gasped loudly and shuddered, her nails digging into his back roughly. Quickening his pace, he thrust into her, kissing harshly at her neck. With a staggering cry, she tightened her grip around him, and he, intoxicated by the sights and sounds of her, followed, holding her tight to him, savoring every sensation as it flooded through him.

Panting, he braced himself against the chair, trying to balance his now clumsy weight, folding himself into the chair beside her. She shifted to move away, but he held her tight, lifting her legs to lay them over his own.

"Why so quick to fly away? Have a prior engagement, do you?"

She didn't say anything, but closed her eyes, leaning her head back sleepily, her arms tucked against her.

He watched her, practically seeing her afterglow manifest, feeling the warmth of his own. Her breath was still too deep, still returning to normal as he traced indolent circles against her legs, leaning his own head back, heavy with swimming pleasure. She hummed a staccato blip as he tightened his grip against her side, but she didn’t move. Softly, he pushed the hair back from her neck, leaving slight kisses along its pale length. She sighed, moving her shoulder imperceptibly slightly, but not slight enough that he didn't catch it. Smirking, he rubbed against her with the pad of his thumb, enjoying his prize. No, she wouldn't betray him. She was too thoroughly his.

Chapter Text

He had made her sit with them for dinner again. She hated that. She hated his troop. She hated having to listen quietly as they told boring, morally offensive stories. She hated being considered a part of the group, having bought her initiation with her unwilling participation in their latest plot.
She pushed the food around her plate, trying very much not to concentrate on anything but her own thoughts, wishing she could block them out for good.
Her doting husband refilled her wine glass though she had hardly taken a sip.
"Drink- you need to relax." He whispered to her under the din of the group. She scowled. He laughed, amused at her reaction. "Now now," he pinched her cheeks between his long fingers, "no need for so bothered an expression on such a pretty face."
She swatted his hand away, but he caught her fingers, and lifting them slowly to his smiling lips, placed a kiss on the back of her hand. She tried to pull her away resentfully, but he held her hand fast, laying his own on the table, still clutching hers.

"So," his voice rang across the table, gathering everyone's attention, "no need to dillydally, let's get straight to work, shall we?" The group nodded and cheered their affirmations. Her gut clenched.
"As you all well know, we're very quickly rounding the completion of the first part of our little endeavor." The group laughed. She looked around uneasily. "It's time we refocus our efforts to the later tasks, all of which shall come along rather quickly. Now," he steepled his fingers, surveying the group, "since this is a relatively small, delicate plan, we need to keep our group as thin as possible for the actual physical completion." He leaned against the table, basking in his own brilliance. "I, of course, have a special precedence, so I will be accessing the safe and starting the fire. We'll need someone to come with me, to stay on the outside-"
"I'll do it."
The troop turned and stared at her. She willed a blush not to rise to her cheeks.
Olaf looked at her quizzically.
"Pardon?"
She willed her voice to stay even.
"You said we need to keep the active part as thin as possible- I'm already involved, it might as well be me."
A slow toothy grin slipped across his face.
"Well well well... you just want to get your first fire behind you, don't you? Be careful," he leaned towards her, his voice a gravelly purr, "it's addicting."
The troop members laughed. She fought the urge to lean away from his closeness, trying to keep her voice calm.
"I'll do my best."

He straightened up in his seat, a satisfied pride resting within him. She hadn't been all that hard to break in the end. She was his wife, his Countess, HIS. The roaring glow sat within him for the rest of the meeting as everything fell into place like dominoes. He was winning, well and truly. Nothing could stop him.

She swallowed hard, trying desperately to look like her insides weren't screaming. This plan may be her only chance to stop him.

 

She tucked herself against the headboard, her heart teetering on a tightrope strung between her ribs.
She had cleaned the dining hall silently as they carried on in the room over, getting drunker and louder, preemptively celebrating their victory. She had slipped upstairs quietly, not wanting to partake in the revelries nor witness them, just wanting to be alone with her aching conscience. She gripped her unopened book in her hands, weighing her actions. There was no doubt about it- although it was by no means "right," it was the right thing to do.
Any yet, she couldn’t dissuade her heart from aching at the thought. All at once, she felt terribly lonely, like the weight of the darkness was pressing upon her, stifling her breath. She slipped her legs over the edge of the bed, standing nervously, her arms wrapped about herself. It had to be right- didn’t it?
Softly, she crept her way downstairs, aiming only to get a glass of wine and then return to her isolation. Her moral compass tugged at her, warning her against the risks of turning towards drunkenness as a form of self-medication, but she didn’t have the time for that right now— that could be a problem for later.

“There you are!”
He had almost missed her as she crept past them, heading towards the stairs, glass in hand. She was so quiet, so small. She looked at him, her dark eyes wells of simmering questions as he held a hand out to her.
“Come here, come here.”
Demurely, obediently, she walked over to him, letting him take her limp hand in his own. He pulled her swiftly towards himself. She staggered, trying to keep the sloshing wine from spilling.
“I was beginning to think you’d deserted us.” His words were a happy hum, rose-colored by the empty bottles filling the table. She glanced around, muttering something that he didn’t quite catch. “And yet, no matter, you’re here now.” He practically fell into his chair, some of his liquor spilling over the side of his glass. She frowned disapprovingly at the floor.
“Don’t worry, it’ll get cleaned up.” He caught her by the wrist, trying to pull her back to him. She braced herself, putting up a resistance but ultimately allowing herself to be moved.
“I know it will— it’ll be me doing it.”

“God, you’re adorable.” His eyes were hungry, his lips pressed together into a tight smirk. “I mean, attractive.”

Haphazardly placing down his glass, he used his now free right hand to grip her by the waist, pulling her towards himself. Unfortunately for him, the arm of the chair now served as a buffer between them, preventing him from actually accomplishing anything. She stood beside him, silent. He leaned himself forward, pulling her arm by the wrist so that it was level with his shoulder, still gripping her by the waist, and rested his head against her.

His head lay against her chest, as he drunkenly rested from the exertion of minimal movement. Her insides fluttered nervously, unclear in emotion but very distinct in their intensity. She held her breath, unsure what she ought to do. Gently, she brought her free hand to his shoulder.
“You should go to bed, you need to be sober by tomorrow.” He didn’t respond, still cradling her awkwardly, leaning himself into her. She glanced around, unsure what she should do. She cleared her throat, pressing his shoulder with her hand. He lulled alway clumsily, straightening his posture.
“Yes. Tomorrow. Yes.” Standing stiffly, using the chair as support, he surveyed the group.
“Go home.” His voice boomed loudly, albeit drunkenly, across the room. They followed his directions, gathering their things, never breaking their loud chatter. Once the door closed behind the last of them, he turned to head up the stairs, but his legs betrayed him, folding slightly beneath him. She raised an eyebrow.
“How drunk are you?” Her voice was amusedly accusatory.
“How drunk- are you?” He looked back at her, pointing a finger, lifting his eyebrow in response. She looked away, fighting to keep a straight face.
“Alright, well, I’ll see you upstairs, presumably.” She turned to leave, but stopped when she heard the thud of him trying to brace himself against the wall. She turned back in resigned exasperation.
“You’d think after all this time you’d learn how to handle your liquor.” She swooped an arm behind him, bracing herself as his weight shifted to her. He scoffed.
“You cannot lift me- you are too little.” She tugged him forward.
“Exactly, so help me out.”
He looked at her condescendingly.
“You can’t tell me what to do, I married you.”
“Yes, I was there. If you’re not going to cooperate, then at least let me help you to the couch.”
“No, we’re going upstairs.” With a heavy lurch, he stumbled forward, using her as a support.

Slowly, ever so slowly, they made their way upstairs before she allowed him to fall on the bed, face first. She sighed.
“At least take off your jacket.” He muttered something in response. Pushing him over, she tried to undo the two buttons holding it on. Shifting himself up so that he was sitting, he grabbed her by the waist, holding her to him.
“My, my, my. What a little minx you are.”
She pushed against him, too tired for his terrible drunken nonsense.
“You’re fucking annoying, did you know that?”
He scoffed.
“Ladies shouldn’t say such things.”
“Yeah, well.” She slid the jacket off him, twisting out of his grip. “If you want to sleep in your clothes, that’s your prerogative, I guess.”
He scowled, pulling off his shoes clumsily as she tugged her dress over her head, changing into her bedclothes.

Tiredly, she made her way to the other side of the bed, seeing as he was annoyingly in her spot. Tugging up the covers, she turned on her side facing away from him.
“Wait,” she didn’t move, hoping he would drunkenly believe she had fallen asleep in two seconds. He reached over to her, pulling her ribbon from her hair, then placing it in her hand. “Your hair was still tied up.”

She closed her fingers around it, holding it tight. Thankfully, it didn’t take long for her to actually fall asleep, out of her excruciating tiredness into soft slumber.

Chapter Text

He awoke confused. He groaned, his head groggy.
"Yeah, that happens sometimes." She mumbled beside him. He looked over at her, squinting.
"Why are you on my side?" She opened her eyes just enough to look at him.
"Because you are obstinate and heavy."
He grunted, laying his head back down.
"Fair enough."
They lay in quiet silence for a few moments as he collected his thoughts.
"Do you want to let go of me, or?"
He looked down, realizing for the first time that he had swung his arm across her in his sleep, holding her to him, his hand beneath her breast. He lay his head back down.
"Not particularly, no."
There was a second pause.
"Can I ask you to let go of me then?"
He scoffed.
"You can certainly try."
"Will you let go of me?"
"No."
She hummed a sour note as he persisted in his stubbornness.
"Shouldn't we be getting up anyway? I have an appointment to keep, and you've got god-knows-what to finish before tonight."
"Oh god," he pinched the bridge of his nose, "do you always talk so much?"
"Serves you right, maybe you'll learn to not drink so much."
"Maybe you'll learn to shut up," he mumbled.
"If you let go of me, I wouldn't be able to bother you."
He slid his hand up to cover her mouth.
"Really, being quiet is so easy. You just need to not talk, it's not hard at all."
She grabbed his hand, pulling it off her face.
"Like it or not, you have to get up, come on."
"Why so eager?" He smiled condescendingly, "Got a small taste of power and now you want more?"
"You're disgusting. I already told you, I have an appointment. Some of us actually respect others and their time." She pried herself away from him with both hands, wiggling out of his grasp. He rolled onto his back, closing his eyes again with a contented hum,
“It’s intoxicating, isn’t it? Being in control, and her not even knowing it?”
She scowled at his reflection in the mirror as she got dressed.
“I think you’re confusing crime for the liquor still in your system.”
“Come now. You can’t tell me you don’t feel it at all.”

In a way, he was right, although not in the way he imagined. There was a persistent tingle in her belly, catching on her breath, darting her eye away whenever she looked at him for too long.

“I don’t feel anything.”
He slid his legs over the side of the bed, striding up behind her, resting his hands on her waist as she braided her hair.
“Not anything?”
She didn’t look up at him, but saw his shiny eyes out of her periphery as she dedicated all her focus to her braid.
“No.”
He slid one hand across her arm, catching her raised hand as it worked across her plait. They looked like a tragically mis-trained tango pair as he fanned his fingers, gripping tightly at her wrist. She stiffened, avoiding a flinch.
“I find that hard to believe.”
His voice was hot and gravelly against the back of her head. She swallowed down the urge to shiver, instead tugging her wrist from his grip, returning its attention to her hair.
“Of course I feel condemnation for you, but that’s the extent of it.”
He smiled, letting his finger trail along her hip as he slid his hand from her waist.
“My Dear,” he tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear, “we weren’t talking about your feelings for me.” Her jaw clenched.
As he left the room, she was no longer able to contain her shudder, feeling the coldness creep down to her toes.

...

She sat on the cold table, feeling ridiculous in her paper gown. She never liked doctor visits- they always found a way to make you feel small. She was glad at least that her new Doctor was a woman--the last had refused her, telling her that he couldn't help her without the consent of her husband. As if she needed his permission to not get pregnant. The thought horrified her.
This meeting was routine, the smiling nurses much nicer, making sure there were still no side effects from the medicine too terrible to bear. Even if it led to a loss of limbs, she could hardly imagine any result would be too high a price to pay. But she wouldn't think on that, she couldn't. Some thoughts were genuinely too terrible. Murder? That she could consider. But pregnancy? That was entirely too much. The woman handed her a new prescription form for the following month. She felt a strange guilt at the fact that she might not need it after. She was out of the office soon enough, enjoying the liberating feeling of being on her own. Even just taking the bus by herself seemed like a victory. This could be her life all the time, she mused, if she allowed it.
She resented his constant intrusion upon her thoughts. Even when she was alone, she couldn't be by herself.

...

The car ride seemed impossibly long. Rationally, she knew it only could last 40 minutes or so, but when one is in undesirable company, time has a nasty habit of taking much longer than necessary to traverse relatively short bouts of moments. Thus, wedged again between the man with hooks for hands and the man with only half an ear, time seemed to creep backwards for Violet. She stared ahead, trying to will herself into a sort of meditative trance to block out all of their noise- such constant noise. As they began passing landmarks for the town they meant to enter, she instinctively reached toward her pocket to tie her hair up, before remembering that it was already tied back.
“Stop pushing.” The man with only half an ear elbowed her roughly.
“Sorry,” she muttered, not looking up at him. She refocused herself, trying to run her memory across and through the layout of the town. She would need an escape route, somewhere to hide, if and when it came to it. He gut knotted as they got closer to the house, and the originally comforting rolling open land now seeming like a threateningly watchful sentinel. She swallowed.

Olaf caught her hand again as she left the car, bracing it back so that her wrist formed a sharp right angle. He kissed the base of her hand smugly.
“We will see you soon, my Pet.”

She pulled her hand away roughly, glaring at him sharply before turning to go.

The long stone walk was unfairly empty, even the beautiful flowers she had admired seeming far scarcer than necessary. She tugged at her braid pensively.
The house seemed to loom above her, scrutinizing and condemning her. She felt the urge to apologize to its very foundations, her insignificant role as both Delilah and Samson whirring around her, making her a tornado. But in a world that seemed hell-bent on killing her, could it really be so wrong to perpetuate one small act of destruction in the name of protecting her own?

She knocked on the door, feeling the echoing brass ring as a dirge within her ribcage.

Chapter Text

Mrs. Quagmire had seemed furtive, ushering her into the house quickly, again giving the outdoors an distrusting glance. This time, instead of leading her to the entrance room, she had steered her back and to the far far left, through halls and doors and exquisite rooms, before finally arriving in front of a large wooden door. Mrs. Quagmire stood poised before it, looking at Violet intensely, her hand pressed to the handle. Her lips were a thin line as she stared down at her. Violet shifted uncomfortably.
"Do you know the weight of what you are doing?"
Violet's heart plunged. She didn't know, did she? But the woman's face betrayed no hint of condemnation.
"The weight?"
"The truth makes itself a burden at times."
Her eyes were piercingly hollow, concentrated on Violet's face. She fought to keep her muscles perfectly still.
"I understand. I'm ready."
With a gentle turn of the knob and reverent push, Mrs. Quagmire opened the door inwards.

A man was sitting at a table in the middle of the room - Violet assumed he must be Mr. Quagmire. He looked up as they entered, standing from his seat. Mrs. Quagmire steered her in as she glanced around the room in awe - the room was wallpapered with bookshelves, floor to ceiling wooden bookshelves, all filled to bursting with volumes upon volumes of books. It would take three of the library she visited to collect as many books. The room had the warm scent that comes with old books, a scent made up of ink and feathers used as bookmarks, swinging toes in the nearby creek as you read on the mud bank, the personification of the gentle give as you open a book for the first time, tenderly rolling the spine so that it won’t break. It smelled like sunlight caught between the dust, of staying up after bedtime, of trailing your fingers behind you against an out-of-tune piano. It smelled like home. She stood, turning her head to soak in the sheer magnitude of it all - it was beautiful.

“Violet?”
She turned with a start to the man who was still standing. Taking a quick two steps, she crossed the space required to shake his hand. He smiled, sadly.
“You look so much like your mother.”
“There’s more Bertrand in her than meets the eye.” Mrs. Quagmire had moved beside her husband, taking his arm then sitting down.
Violet recomposed her posture, feeling awkward facing the two of them together, as if she were on trial. At his gesture, she took a seat as well, smoothing her skirt uncomfortably.
“My wife tells me you’ve come to us for help?”
“Yes,” Violet hesitated, choosing her words carefully, “I need answers.”
He gestured at the books around themselves good-humoredly.
“Well then, you’ve come to the right place.”
She allowed herself the luxury of looking around again, still filled with awe at the sheer magnitude of it.
“My parents always did say the world was quietest in libraries.”
Mrs. and Mr. Quagmire paused again, attempting to conceal the sad pallor that overtook them. They hid it well, if not for their telling eyes.
“What specifically are you looking for?”
“How did you know my parents? What were they working on? Is it true that their deaths might have been… less than accidental?” She couldn’t bring herself to say murder. The couple shared a quick glance, their thoughts resting on the back of their teeth. Mrs. Quagmire spoke first, her voice a placatingly calm tone.
“Haven’t you spoken about any of this with, um,” she paused, searching the ceiling for the right words, a deep breath caught in her chest.
“We don’t talk much, we just live together.” Her continence was stony as she tried to avoid the subject.
“Yes, well, that’s expected.” She cleared her throat. Mr. Quagmire leaned in.
“But for four years. Excuse my impertinence, but that’s a rather long time. He hasn’t offered any conversation on the matter? Moreover, he doesn’t mind you coming here to speak with us on it?”
She clenched her jaw.
“He doesn’t know I’m here.” The joints in her fingers flexed. “He doesn’t know a lot of things.”
The couple shared another glance between themselves. Mr. Quagmire turned back to her, scrutinizing her.
“Violet, what do you want?”
She paused, taken aback. What did she want? Primarily, her freedom, seemingly bought at any cost.
“I want to know what happened to put my siblings and myself in the situation that we are in. I want to know why my parents died, and what I can do now to set right what I can.”
“How much are you willing to give for it?”
She breathed out softly, her heart clenching.
“Everything.”
Mr. and Mrs. Quagmire shared another knowing look before standing. Mrs. Quagmire stepped back, allowing her husband to lift the cover of the table. It was arranged through a clever set of connections so that it easily moved up and to the side, resting beside the base. Violet looked at it, amazed, as it revealed a smaller, metal door within, closed with a set a wires connected to what appeared to be a small keyboard. Violet looked up at them in wonder, the inventive gears in her head spinning. They smiled back at her.
“Do you know what this is?” Mrs. Quagmire’s voice was low, direct. Violet shook her head slowly. “It’s called a vernacularly fastened door, it’s a sort of lock that can only be opened if one had the knowledge of the three passwords, which are then typed in in order, unlocking the door.”
Violet moved closer, touching it lightly.
“The key is to utilize knowledge that, while obvious to anyone who needs access to it, would stump villainy. That’s hardly difficult, as villainy is very seldom well read. The first one is easy enough - it’s the playwright who composed ‘Zombies in the Snow.’”
Violet frowned. “Don’t think me villainous, but I’ve never heard of that.”
Mrs. Quagmire shrugged, unsurprised. “I didn’t expect you would. It’s ‘Gustav Sebald.’ You should become familiar with his work in time.” Violet frowned, but nodded, watching her fingers dance across the keys. The first lock unhinged.
“The next one is the fifth daughter of Wladimir Sklodowska-”
“Madame Curie, that’s easy enough.” The couple both smiled, fondly if a little sadly.
“I knew you could get that one, see. All nobleness takes is a little knowledge.” She typed “Marie Curie” into the keypad. Another lock slid open.
“And lastly, the poet who wrote ‘The Garden of Proserpine.’”
Violet paused. She knew the name - her parents had kept volumes of his works in their own library, before it had all been lost. She hesitated.
“Swinburne. Algernon Charles Swinburne.”
With a final click, the latch opened, allowing the door to be pulled back. Violet peered inside, her heart pounding.

Chapter Text

Inside the safe there seemed to be a second library, built up of loose papers and files, all stacked together haphazardly. Violet felt her heart swell; there was so much information in there, at least some of it had to contain the answers she was looking for. Mrs. Quagmire reached in deliberately, riffling through the papers to find the ones she wanted. She straightened them against her knee, placing them down in her lap before giving Violet a meaningful look.
“There is a lot that you don’t know. For now, we’ll just give you the minimum amount of information you need, with the promise of more later.” Violet nodded, feeling slightly panicked that there might not be a later, but did her best to swallow her fears down.
“The first thing you need to know is that your suspicions are grounded.” Mr. Quagmire spoke up, keeping an even tone. “Your parents’ death was not an accident.” She leaned back in her seat, trying to pace her breathing. She nodded softly for him to continue. “They worked with us as part of a group dedicated to acts of nobility and the prevention of wickedness. The organization has been around for a long time now, and still operates, albeit underground.”
“And they died for that? How could someone oppose that?”
He hesitated, picking his words.

“Years back - before you were even born - there was a schism within the organization, splitting the members according to their ideas of what was the greater good. Some of us fought for the spread of knowledge and nobility, while others turned towards… less altruistic ideals.”
“You keep using the word ’noble,’ what do you mean by that?”
The couple looked at one another, confused.
“I would have thought someone of your intelligence would know the word ‘noble’-”
“No, I know what it means in definition, I mean, what was the specific nobility you were fighting for? What was worth my parents’ lives and the destruction of my family?”
Mrs. Quagmire spoke up this time, keeping her voice soft.
“There is an innate morality all of us are born with. It leads us to seek answers and betterment throughout our lives, driving us to help those who need helping and putting out the fires we can. We keep an eye on the general events of the world, put out feelers all over to globe to perpetuate good in whatever way we can. However,” she sighed, pulling the air back in through her teeth, “as my husband has already mentioned, peoples’ definitions of ‘good’ can vary. For some former volunteers, they turned to wealth and power as a source of good.”
“But, as a secret society interfering in general affairs, aren’t you also reliant on a certain sort of power?”
Mrs. Quagmire smiled, turning to her husband.
“I told you there was a great deal of Bertrand in her.”

Mr. Quagmire placed his hands together, concentrating.
“Power is not in and of itself a bad thing, Violet. What matters is what you do with it. If you use your power for a greater good, for the actual greater good, then there is a innate quality of goodness to it.”
“Then why did my parents have to die?”
The looked at each other, heavy with uncertainness. Mrs. Quagmire spoke first.
“Sacrifices are demanded of us all. That’s why they made the choice to keep you children out of it - they didn’t want you to be persuaded into the same sort of lifestyle as them. They wanted you to be safe.”
“And then what? What is the goal here? What are you trying to accomplish with all of this?”
“To make the world a quiet place.” Mr. Quagmire held her under a piercingly sorrowful look. She averted her eyes, not wanting to meet his stare.

“So your goal is just… general goodness?”
“Our goal is information; receiving and transferring the information needed to protect that goodness at any cost.”
“At any cost?” she frowned, “What do you mean? Literally any cost, or,”
“A temporary immoral act can be accepted in the name of an eventual good.”
“So the end always justifies the means?”
“When the end is a just world, yes.”
“And you are the ones deciding what is just?”
“Oh,” Mrs. Quagmire gestured between herself and her husband, “not us, the whole of the organization, with our compiled knowledge and understanding through years of study. It’s not a blind decision - it never is. Everything is very carefully thought out and planned.”
“And are you all willing to die for it?”
“We certainly go into everything with the hope that it won’t come to that, but yes, we are always prepared for that eventuality.”
Violet paused, taking all the information in. Mr. Quagmire spoke next.
“We protect the innocent - that’s the beginning and end of it, really. Even after your parents’ death, we watched you and your siblings very carefully, making sure no real harm came to you. We’ve done everything to protect you, as the children of our colleagues and fellow volunteers.”
Violet looked up sharply.
“You’ve been watching us from the start?”
“Yes, we like to keep an eye on our own.”

The library began the swim before her, the books blurring into one another.
“You knew, and you didn’t do anything?” Her heart sank down to her feet, plummeting as it cascaded across her insides, leaving it a pool on the floor. “You knew, and you didn’t help?”
Mrs. Quagmire hesitated, an anxious shadow spreading across her face.
“There was nothing to be done. All we could do was watch from afar-”
“You let me be separated from my family? You left me in that house for four years?” She felt nauseous, her head spinning. She gripped at the fabric of her dress, wrinkling it in her hand. “I thought you said you fought for what was right, ‘at any cost?’ You just said you looked out for your own.” She was reeling, even the comforting air of the room seeming more and more like it was compressing in around her, extinguishing her.
“It’s not that we didn’t want to help, it’s just-”
“That saving me and my siblings didn’t fit your definition of ‘good?’” She stood, angrily, trying not to cry. “You could have done something and you didn’t, who decided that was just? Was that also a collaborative decision?”
“Yes, I mean, no, I mean, Violet!”
But she was already out the door, speeding down the hall, trying to swallow down the thrumming sob stuck in her throat as her world flipped upside down.

Chapter Text

She stormed out of the house, not keeping to the path, letting the dirt of the manicured lawn get on her shoes. She didn’t care. She couldn’t care anymore. She felt silly, having wrestled so long with her moral compass, only to find out that there was no strict sense of morality, and that it seemed everyone was just trying to do what was best by them. She continued down the road, her sorrow having dissolved into anger, not caring that she didn’t know where she was going, just knowing that she had to move or she might explode.
A few blocks down, she tripped over an unevenness in the pavement, sending her sprawling indigently to the ground. As she pushed herself up, she winced, looking down at her leg. She felt ridiculously child-like, having skinned her knee, adding a literal injury to the insult. She didn’t bother standing, righting herself into a sitting position and then just remaining on the ground, content to sit in the dirt. Nothing mattered anyway. There was no one around to witness her strange behavior, so why should she care?

It was a surprisingly long time before they were able to find her. He sat in the front, trying his best to not appear perturbed as they scanned the roads. She should have been out ages ago. They continued to circle the area. He swallowed down his nervousness, hoping she hadn’t run off or escaped - she wouldn’t, would she? Perhaps he had been more of an influence on her than he had realized.

He almost didn’t recognize her at first. She was seated directly on the ground, disheveled looking and angry. They slowed the car, stopping half a block from her. He rolled down his window to call to her when she didn't immediately stand.
“Violet!” She didn’t respond, obstinate as ever.
He nodded to the man with only half an ear behind him, who promptly exited the car, and lifting her by the bicep, pulled her towards them. She allowed herself to be moved, reluctantly.
“What happened to you?” he frowned. Her hair was coming loose, and now that she was standing he could see that her knee was bleeding. She slid into the seat bitterly.
“I fell. Please, can we just go home?” He shrugged, facing forward again, trying to quiet his curiosity for now. No doubt he would learn more later, best not to make her any angrier than she already was. The bitter disappointment radiating off of her seemed promising to him, almost cooing of his imminent victory. He smirked, leaning into his seat, enjoying his impending victory. And yet, something was wrong.

She sat in the back, staring emptily out the window, her arms crossed tight over her chest. She looked so small suddenly, as if she had been deflated. The two men beside her seemed so unnecessary- she lacked the energy to do anything more than stare. It unsettled him. She was always so obdurate, it was somewhat frighting to witness her expression of defeat. Fear tugged inside him. She hadn’t been hurt, had she?
She looked up, meeting his eyes in the rearview mirror. He glanced away quickly, not wanting her to know he had been watching her.

He was watching her. She could feel it skirt against her skin uncomfortably, like she was a picture observed from behind a piece of glass. Whatever. Let him look. She wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of admitting he had been right. He was perfectly infuriating, a beacon of everything she did not want, and yet she was finding more and more each day, she would have little idea how to live without. What would she do once she was free? She didn’t have an answer- she could picture one maybe two days into that future, but after that? There was nothing. Her life as it was, on the other hand, she easily saw stretching out before her, unfurling in a mess of monotony. She stared out the window, hating him. She hated the fact that he necessitated the emotion of hate in her, something she could have quite easily lived without. She stared out the window. It did not yield any answers.

It was a painfully slow process to return to the house, leaving him feeling somewhat uncomfortable in the stifling silence. When they finally did arrive, he nodded his men away for the time being, hoping to catch her alone. She had already slammed the door shut behind herself, leaving him somewhat miffed at the inconvenience of having to reopen it. When he finally did get in, she was pulling off her shoes in the foyer, seeming more angry than upset.
“Do you not have a driver’s license, or what?”
He looked down at her, blinking.
“Pardon?”
“Do you straight up just not know how to drive, or do you simply prefer being chauffeured around?”
She didn’t wait for an answer. straightening up and walking away. He followed after her perplexed.
“What happened? Did everything go according to plan?”
“Yes, it was fine, it was fantastic. Super glad I could help.” She never turned back to look at him, making her way up the stairs infuriatingly. He caught up to her, catching her wrist.
“You do NOT walk away when I am talking to you.”

He was angry. She didn’t care, trying to twist her hand out of his grip.
“I’m tired, I’m going to bed.” Scowling, he grabbed her around the waist, throwing her over his shoulder. She pushed up against his back angrily. “You’re fucking kidding me, right?” Equally annoyed, he dropped her in his large chair, blocking her escape by placing his hands on either side of the chair backing.
“What the hell happened?”
“Nothing happened. I got the information you wanted, nothing more and nothing less. I’m tired, may I pretty please leave now?” Her voice was dripping with irritation.
“How did you get hurt?”
“I told you, I fell.”
“Did someone hurt you?”
“My own idiocy and gravity.”
“What did they do?”
“Provide you with some much-sought answers, as you expected, now please-“
He kneeled down in front of her, lifting her leg to examine her knee more closely. She tried to pull it away, but his grip was too tight.
“Stay here.”
He stood up, leaving for the kitchen. She obeyed, albeit bitterly.

He was surprised to see she hadn’t left, although her stooped posture in the chair radiated a biting anger. He took her calf in his hand, using the wet towel in his hand to clean it. She breathed in with a sharp hiss, trying to pull away.
“I really ought to have one of the men teach you how to fight.”
“Unless me punching the damn sidewalk is going to do any good, I don’t see how it would help.”
“Watch your mouth - swearing is unbecoming in a lady.”
“You’re one to talk.”
She was feeling fierce again. He smiled despite himself. Softly, he wrapped the bandage around her knee.

She watched him, his fingers working with an uncharacteristic tenderness against her skin. He finished, smoothing it over with a soft pressure, concentrating intently. He looked up at her, an equal intensity in his eyes. She blushed, shoving down the emotions in her chest, standing abruptly to scurry away. Unfortunately, he was closer than she had calculated, and so bounced against his chest as he stood as well. She pushed against him, flustered, turning to go. He caught her, smiling wickedly.
“What, no thank you?”
“I have to go, goodbye.”
She skirted out of his touch, trying her best to not look like she was running as she headed up the stairs. He watched her amusedly as she made her escape.

Chapter Text

He made her so mad. Just, continually, infuriatingly angry. She paced around the room upstairs, ignoring the pain in her knee as she did her best to tread a hole through the carpet. Although her mind begged her to drop the topic and give herself some rest, she continued in her rumination, working herself up.
They had known - they had known that she was here, and hadn’t done anything about it- had let it fall upon her to protect her siblings and herself, had let three children fend for themselves, had let them be separated, and all the while keeping secrets about their parents and the nature of their deaths.
And the secrets. He had known, too. He had known the entire time, and never thought it was important to say anything. At least he had always been straightforward with his motives, however terrible they might be, she had to give him that. He didn’t pretend he was acting out of anything other than selfishness. He was purposefully awful.

She fell upon the bed, exhausted and distraught, beside the letter she had quickly scribbled out to her siblings as soon as she had arrived back at the house. Four years. For four years they had sat upon these secrets, letting her stew in her own moral dilemmas, feeling wretched, when all along they could have done something. What else didn’t she know?
She had more or less blown her opportunity to ask anything further of the Quagmires. Still, the feeling of betrayal sat too uncomfortably within her for her to actually consider seeking them out once more. She pulled the ribbon from her hair, untangling it slowly.
She could always ask him, of course. His honesty was dubious at best, but he hadn’t lied to her about her parents, that much she now knew. Although, his more than slight lie of omission wasn’t exactly what she would call an act of innocence. She ran her fingers through her hair, feeling the pull of it against her hand. Sitting up, resolving herself in pursuit of the truth, she stood, preparing to make her way downstairs.

He was sitting at the table, his legs crossed comfortably, chewing on the end of a pen as he read over a series of papers. He didn’t react when she walked in- she was a tempest today, swift in her changes between violent moods, and he didn’t want to get any more involved in it than he already had. Still, he could not resist teasing her, pretending not to notice as she stood before him, waiting for him to look up. He tapped his fingers against the pen, acting out the part of a man deep in thought. She started tapping her foot, consciously or unconsciously matching the rhythm of his finger. He still didn’t look up, successfully stifling a grin. She practically radiated annoyance, her thin fingers white from the pressure of gripping her arms. It was adorable, really.
It was less adorable when she reached out suddenly, snatching the pen from his hand. Closing his fingers slowly around the now empty space, he looked up at her, doing his best to maintain an even composure.
“Yes, can I help you?”
“What else don’t I know?”
Her face was red, flushed with emotion. He blinked slowly, regarding her quietly.
“That’s a bit vague, isn’t it?”
She pointed the pen at him accusingly.
“You knew about the Quagmires this whole time- about how they worked with my parents, about how you worked AGAINST my parents, and about the whole mess in between. What else are you not telling me?”
“That’s a trick question, right?”
“I’m not laughing.” Her face was stony, deliberate. He relaxed his shoulders, reclining further.
“Alright, I’ll indulge you. What are you looking for?”
She paused, uncertain.
“I don’t know.”
He couldn’t help but smirk at the way she definitively pronounced each word, angrily, like it was a command.
“If you’re looking for me to start at the beginning of time and walk you through every act of the universe up to this moment,” his voice had a condescending lilt to it, “then I’m afraid I will be of little help.”
“What are you after?”
He shrugged bemusedly.
“I believe I’ve made my motives perfectly clear on several occasions. To get what I want. Why? What are you after?”
She ignored him, continuing her interrogation.
“Why keep me around, what are you trying to gain?”
He smiled, looking up at her from under his lowered eyebrow.
“Why, to keep you out of trouble, my Dear. Would hate to see something terrible happen to as pretty a face as yours.”
“I’m being serious.”
“As am I - would you rather I had killed you?”
She ignored him again, pressing on.
“Why didn’t you tell me about my parents?”
“Why didn’t you ask?”
“What else are you not telling me?”
“Plenty of things - for example, while curly hair is somewhat becoming on you, I don’t recommend you make it a part of your regular routine. Although, the braid itself could function as a convenient way to keep a handle on you.”

She pulled her hair up on top of her head messily, burning with indignation.
“Who the hell do you think you are?”
“Doting husband, talented actor, exquisite lover, prodigal arsonist - shall I go on?”
She lifted her hands beside her face, squeezing her eyes shut.
“Do you - do you have any idea just how MASSIVELY - how absolutely terrifically frustrating it is to talk to you? Do you realize it, or is it something that just happens?”
He stood slowly, looming over her as he grinned down.
“Oh, are we now discussing your infatuation with me? I thought we were discussing secrets.”
She practically combusted, throwing her hands in the air.
“You know what? Fuck you!”
Turning angrily, she stormed out of the room, throwing his pen over her shoulder, leaving him to keep his ridiculous secrets to himself. He could rot for all she cared, which was not at all - she didn’t care one bit what happened to him or what he did. But first, she snatched his coat off the rack as she made her way upstairs - there was a hole in it, she had noticed earlier, that she ought to patch up. Heaven knows he’d have no idea how, the idiot.

Chapter Text

She scrubbed at the floor angrily, trying to focus all of her energy on removing the scuff marks from the wood. She was furious with him. He was keeping unnecessary secrets just to placate his own ego, pompous and incessantly irritating.
He had no right to belittle her criticisms of him- she, of anybody, knew him best. He was despicable and unreasonably judgmental and infuriatingly in her head. She listened to the roar of the laughter of his group next door. Fuck them.

Some nights, they would return ridiculously late, dressed in bizarre costumes from either a heist or yet another terrible play, tracking dirt and spilled liquor into the house with them. He would be loud and boisterous, making toast after toast as she attempted to wash what seemed suspiciously like blood out of his coat- she never asked anymore. And he would act large, and oversized, but the moment they left, she'd see him deflate. No one else ever saw him like that- she was too much a part of the furnishings for him to notice her, but she didn't have the privilege of not noticing him, she thought bitterly.
She continued scrubbing vigorously across the floor, stewing in her own anger. Suddenly, her brush hit a pair of shiny shoes. She paused, looking up and up and up, until she met Olaf's face as he looked down at her quizzically.
"Any particular reason why you're trying to burrow through my floors?"

She stood up swiftly, straightening her back so that she was at her full height.
"Fuck you." Her face was flushed with righteous fury. He nodded, pensively.

"Alright, so I see we're fighting. Care to tell me why?"

She clenched her jaw, indignant at his placating tone.
"You damn well know why.”
He cocked his eyebrow.
"No, I really can't say I do."
“Because I hate you.”
“You hate me, do you?”
She thrust out her chin, still boiling with anger. "You are wicked, and pompous, and self-serving, and feel the need to drag everyone else into your messes with you because your own damnation isn't enough, for some reason. You make me live with you, only noticing me when it's convenient for you, and you are drunk, just, constantly, and quite frankly, you disgust me. Do you have any idea how infuriating it is to even have to talk to you? It’s like being slowly drowned alive in a pool of ignorance. It’s horrific!” She took a deep breath in, steeling her shaking nerves, expecting him to strike her.

He swirled the liquor in his glass before taking a sip.
"That's not true, I notice you constantly." She seethed at his nonchalant answer, wanting him to be as incensed as she was. He shrugged. "It's not my fault if you can't handle your attraction to me." He smiled, a wide, toothy, mocking smile.

She scowled up at him. "Fuck you."
He practically purred. "Oh please. You enjoy me."

She was so angry she could spit, but instead, she yanked him down to her height, kissing him with her teeth and tongue. He froze momentarily, caught off guard, before leaning in to pull her to him, a smile beginning to play at his lips.
"Stop that." She reprimanded him, sternly. "Follow me."
Grabbing him by the lapel, she dragged him behind her across the hall, up the stairs, and into the bedroom, quickly shutting the door behind them. He opened his mouth to say something.
"Just please- stop talking." She kissed him fiercely on the lips, pulling him towards the bed.
"And who, exactly, do you think you are?" He growled against her teeth, but followed her willingly, allowing himself to be pressed to the edge of the mattress as he sat down to remove his pants. She didn't answer him, still biting and pulling at his lips as her hands made quick work of the buttons on his shirt. He eagerly slid it off. She pulled her worn dress over her head and threw it to the floor, quickly making an encore of her slip. He tried to reach out to grab her, but she pushed him back against the mattress so that he was laying down, looking mostly dazed at the strength she had. He pulled himself up to his elbows as she slid down onto the floor, keeping eye contact as she knelt in front of him, pulling the elastic of his briefs down. Before he could say a word, his erection was in her mouth, her witty tongue bobbing along his shaft, creating sparks in the backs of his eyes. He gasped. She hummed a note against his skin that made him clutch at the sheets, his breaths becoming more and more ragged. He reached down to her, gripping the hair on the back of her head as she continued to move along him, creating a wonderful wet warmth that spread throughout his system, snapping within him. He moaned, a deep throaty moan that seemed to come up from his toes.

"It's about time you put that smart mouth to good use." He couldn't help but hiss the sarcastic comment through his gritted teeth, before yelping at the pinch she gave him in response.

Her hands held him by the thighs as she moved across his length, those wonderful pouting lips doing wonderful things indeed. He tangled his hand in her hair, tugging at it slightly. She nipped at him, sliding her hand to his member, the warmth of her lean fingers causing him to grit his teeth. She moved against him, building up a deliciously smooth friction. He rocked his hips into the sensation, his gasps more and more quickly becoming moans as he felt his climax welling within him. He balled his fingers in her hair, holding her down. She sensed his urgency, speeding up with his thrusts, causing his head to spin. He was so close, and the sight of her kneeling in front of him only pushed him further. He groaned through his gritted teeth. And then, all at once, she stopped, pulling back.

"And that," she stood back up, leering over him, "is what if feels like to talk to you."
Her face was the picture of cruelty through her feigned innocence. He froze, still braced against the bed, as she straightened up, and turned away to leave.

He blinked quickly, surmising everything that was happening, before standing with a growl. She was already lifting her dress of the floor, moving to put it back on. "Oh no you fucking don't, we are not doing this again." He grabbed her by the arm, pulling her back to him, grinding his erection against her hip as he pushed his tongue in her mouth. She tried to stifle a moan, pulling away from his kiss, but he pressed her to the wall, running his tongue behind her teeth. He fanned his hand across her ribs, pushing her so that she was flat against the wall with no way to scurry free.
Her hands pressed against his shoulders, bracing herself against his weight. He lifted her up, balancing her so that their hips were on level. She wrapped her arms around his neck, her back still pressed to the wall for support. And then, swiftly, he slid himself inside her, thrusting deep, frustrated strokes. She wrapped her legs around him, gasping in time to his thrusts as he pushed her against the wall.
"You. Are. Mine. All. Mine. Only. Mine." He punctuated each word with a hard stroke, keeping her from responding with her sharp breaths. Right when he sensed she was on the edge of coming, her fingers clenching, gasps getting higher in pitch, he stopped midstroke to carry her to the bed. Quickly, he lay her down, climbing over her. He pulled her by the hips towards himself, biting at her skin to leave tell-tale purple marks across her breasts before plunging himself back into her. She gasped, raising her hips at the sensation. He quickly pushed her back down, holding her by the hips as he pounded himself into her.
"You. Belong. To. Me."
He hissed the words between each stroke, feeling her delicious surrender surround him. She cried out, loudly, as she came, and he, gritting his teeth, followed her. She fell back against the bed, tired. He crawled over her.
"Oh no- like I said, you're mine. You're not done until I say so."
She looked up at him quizzically, and then her eyes widened with a gasp as he slid two fingers inside of her. He picked up to a fast pace, still holding her down by the hips, as she moaned through clenched teeth.
She bucked her hips as he slid another finger inside of her. He quickly pushed her back down underneath him, watching her hungrily. She gasped, panting, as her second orgasm rolled through her. He still didn't stop, kissing at the exposed skin of her abdomen.
"That's a good girl." He growled.
She would have responded, but the quivering sensations left her dumbfounded and speechless. Her bones rode the aftershocks of an earthquake emanating from the space between her skin and his hand. He pulled more moans out of her until she was gasping for breath, practically ignited by the static in her veins, her head swimming and fuzzy and deliciously clear, as she cried out one last time before he stopped, still pressing her down into the mattress. He made his way up over her, kissing at the tender skin of her jawline before pushing his tongue to the back of her mouth, elated at the sensation of her yielding completely to his presence.
He was already hard again, and so he slid himself back inside her, savoring the feeling as she whimpered against his teeth, groaning at the pressure. He held her tight against himself as he rocked himself into her, less vigorous than before, but still causing her to gasp and clutch at his back in a way that swelled within him. He pushed himself up so that he was leering over her. Her lips were parted breathlessly as she stared back up at him.
"And that's what it feels like to be able to fuck you anyways." She began to reply but then his tongue was in her mouth, greedily filling her. She arched into his touch as his lips moved over her neck and shoulder before he cried out his climax shudderingly.

He rolled off her, both of them panting with the exertion, before pulling her against himself, savoring the warm glow emanating from her flushed skin.

A loud cheer rose from the downstairs, filling the room. She froze, her face pale.
"Your troop is still here."

He laughed, resting his head on his hand, savoring her horrified reaction. "Let them have their fun." She groaned, turning her head to the side, sleepy with her buzzing energy. With his free hand he tilted her chin towards his face, pulling her towards him in a warm kiss. "You're learning very quickly for someone who claims to have no idea what they're doing."
She glared at him, a menacing look in her eyes, but didn't fight when he tangled his legs between hers, his wandering hand sill rubbing at her warm skin.

Chapter Text

She fell asleep there, exhausted by her spurt of angry energy. She was fascinating, she really was. He disengaged himself from her, making his way out of the room and downstairs. It was dark. His men had left. He must have fallen asleep too, for a period. The house seemed so empty, so quiet. He checked the clock on the wall - it was 4 AM. He had slept then. He made his way across the room, stopping to pick up the thin book tucked beneath the table, no doubt kicked there at some point during the night. He lifted it, raising the cover so that the thin light made it legible enough to read. “The young American and Marine Tales: New Translation.” He frowned, flipping through it. It was old, no doubt from that infernal library. She had such strange tastes. He dropped it down upon the table disinterestedly, making his way into the dining hall.

It was a mess; that was unsurprising. Any of the work she had finished had been quickly undone in her absence. He pulled a chair out, falling into it, grasping at the nearest bottle of wine. Slowly, he lifted the top to his lips, taking a deep swig. It was quiet--unusually so. Even when he awoke before her in the mornings there was usually some sense of movement to the world, but right now, there was nothing but him. He scowled, annoyed at the still. He looked toward the doorframe, the long shadows lazily stretched across the wood, before slinking back into his chair, lazily swirling the wine within the glass.
He should go back upstairs, there was no point to sitting in the dark by himself. It felt odd, like he was intruding somehow. He took another swig. Damn the intrusion; it was his house after all, and he could sit in the dark all he wanted. Yet he couldn’t help but wish she were beside him - it seemed so cold, and she made a convenient space heater. She was convenient in a lot of ways - easily portable, easy to annoy, not to mention easy on the eyes.
Yes, that was the sum of it; she was convenient to him. He had grown accustomed to her - her sharp tones and question mark eyes. She had slipped into his routine so easily. She was comfortable to him, and he enjoyed that. He didn’t own her, per say, but she was his, whether she admitted to that fact or not. And yet, in a stranger, larger sense, she seemed to be constantly eluding him, always just out of reach even when he held her tight in his grip. He found pleasure and strange companionship in her, but she herself offered nothing more, always braced, always furtive, always waiting.

As if on cue, he heard the door open behind him, leading out from the kitchen. He turned to look. She stood framed by the light, a mug in her hand.
“Oh! Sorry, you scared me.” She lowered her hand from where it had flown to her heart. He raised his eyebrow.
“Did you not realize I was up to by the empty bed or?”
“No, I just didn’t expect…” her words trailed off as she glanced over her shoulder. “Anyway, sorry, I’ll get out of your way-“
He kicked a chair out, beckoning her over.
“Come, sit.”
She entered the room hesitantly, sinking into the seat. He gestured to her mug.
“What’s that?”
“Tea.”
He handed her the bottle of wine.
“If you’re looking for sleep, try this.” She took it, unsure, before taking a tentative sip and passing it back. He took a generous swig. “I take it we’re not fighting anymore?”
She rolled her eyes at him bitterly.
“You act like it’s so hard to understand.”
“To be fair, it is. I need a constant explanation of what you’re thinking, I can never tell.” She looked back down, tracing her thumb against the glass, not responding. He sighed, “So, tell me, do you make a habit of sitting alone in the dark?”
“I could ask you the same thing, after all, you were here first.”
“Fair enough, although you are avoiding the question.” He handed the bottle back to her. She sighed as well, taking a drink.
“No, not as often as I used to.”
“But you still do?”
She shrugged.
“Some nights I can’t sleep. Hardly surprising, really. I’m more surprised you haven’t noticed.”
“So you sit in the dark and drink tea?”
She looked down at the mug on the table.
“It’s not as depressing as drinking wine alone in the dark.”
“I’m not alone.” He lifted the bottle as a toast to her. She smiled. He liked that, the feeling of making her smile. A happy wife was more easily plied. He swallowed and grimaced. It was really shitty wine. “I prefer the mornings, personally.”
She raised an eyebrow.
“Is it less sad to drink wine alone at 6 AM?”
“It’s only sad if you let it be.”
“Are you even capable of feeling sad?”
He scoffed, somewhat amused.
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“You’re hardly human.”
“I could say the same for you.”
“No you couldn’t, not to the extent to which you take it.”
“What is this about, anyway? What kind of question is that?”

She looked at him, his relaxed frame, stooped shoulders. It was so easy to forget that he was a person, but then suddenly, seeing him sleepless and alone, it was as if all at once his gained a history of personhood.
“I don’t know, forget it.”
“I am hardly as dead as you pretend. Surely I’ve proved that by now.” He passed the bottle back to her, their fingers touching. Her heart quickened at his words, but she swallowed down her visceral reaction. “Are you drunk already or does the middle of the night make you more honest?” She smiled despite herself, looking down again.
“Even you have to respect the fact that late night words don’t count.”
“Oh they don’t, do they?” His eyebrow was cocked, following his sarcastic tone. She shook her head.
“Not at all. That’s why it’s the best time to talk.”
“Alright then,” he leaned further back, passing the bottle back to her, “talk to me.”
“It doesn’t work like that.”
“No? Didn’t realize there were so many intricacies to sitting in the dark.”
“It makes people more honest. That coupled with the fact that most people who are still awake at 5 AM are not sober.”
“Fair enough.” He raised the bottle back to his lips. They sat in silence for a moment or two. “I found your book - one of them at least. It was kicked beneath the table.”
“Oh,” she looked towards the doorway as if she could see it, “thank you.”
“What is it with you and fairy tales?”
“I like how dark they are.” He nodded softly, frowning.
“I didn’t have you pegged as the magic and happily-ever-after type.”
“I don’t mind happily ever after, as long as there is a story that precedes it.” She looked back to her hands, placing her hand against her mug on the table.
“You’ve been reading skinny books lately.”
She looked up at him questioningly.
“Yes?”
He shrugged noncommittally.
“It’s just that you usually read books the size of, well, you.”
“There’s no rhyme or reason to it; they’re just what I happen to pick up.”
“Why do you read so very very much anyway? What are you trying to gain?”
She paused, reflecting upon her answer. The dark swallowed their silence.
“Escape.”

“I could drink to that.” He passed the bottle back to her. “Although, I should be offended that you seek to escape me, but no matter.”
She lowered the bottle from her mouth, her top lip becoming a berry red with the color of the drink. He felt the urge to kiss her.
“You should. Although, it’s not escape from as much as escape to, if that makes any sense.”
He furrowed his forehead.
“What are you trying to escape to, then?”
“The happily ever after.” She watched the wine as it swirled in the glass.
“And there, my Dear,” he took it from her hand, tipping it in toast to her words, “is the difference between us.”
She leaned on her hand, braced against the table.
“And you?”
“What about me?” He lowered the bottle from his lips, handing it back to her.
“What are you escaping from, if not to anything?”
“One needs a reason to escape now?”
She shrugged.
“I mean, money, power, a captive wife, you just about have it all, don’t you?”
“I never think of it that way.”
“What more could you be after, then?”
“Just the general more - with money and power there cannot be enough.”
“And the captive wife?”
“Is a piece of work, but I’ll break her yet.”
She smile, lulling her head down, obviously already feeling the soft influences of the wine.
“Interesting choice of words. Break. Just how much more do you think I can stand before I snap altogether?”
“Quite frankly, very much. But perhaps I’ve chosen the wrong word then.”
“Oh?”
“Yes, what I meant was,” he paused, thinking, “I’ll woo her into compliance.” She laughed, handing the bottle back to him.
“Woo?”
“Yes.” He straightened his posture, a bit discontent with her laughter. “I’ll get her to admit that I am the most dashing and charming husband she could ever have hoped for.”
“Yes, well, good luck with that.” There was still a laugh in her voice. It tugged at him.
“You doubt me?”
“I don’t doubt that you’ll try, if that’s what you mean. I do doubt that’s what you’d want, though.”
He cocked his eyebrow.
“Oh?”
She shook her head softly, still smiling.
“You’d get so bored of me, you would replace me even sooner.”
“I hardly think I could ever find someone to replace your incessantly irritating presence even if I had the time, if that’s of any comfort.”
“Well thank you.” She took the bottle back from him. Their fingers touched again, just for a moment. She lowered her hand sharply, freezing. Softly, she brought her hand to her face, covering her eyes with a sigh.
“What are we doing?”
“A husband and wife, a bottle of wine, a late night - there’s not much else to tell.”
“No, I mean,” she ran her fingers through her hair exasperatedly, “what are we doing here? Talking, like we’re friends. We’re not friends.” He raised his eyebrow. She rapped against the table with her finger. “We’re not. We can’t be. I just…” Her words trailed off as she stared into the dark distance beside her. The silence was smothering.
“Are you still insisting upon crucifying yourself upon your own morality?”
“No, it’s not that,” she didn’t turn to look at him, “it’s just. We live together, and that’s it. I happen to be stuck under your roof, and that’s the beginning and end of this relationship.”
He shrugged, leaning back, trying to ignore the nagging, hurt disappointment within him.
“I hardly think that’s fair to say.”
“Regardless of whether or not it is fair, that is how it is and needs to be.”
“Or else what?” She looked at him finally. He tried to keep his tone even. He could not afford to lose his temper right now. “Or else you’ll have to admit your own fondness to yourself?”
“That’s not-“
“Not true? Not fair? Whatever it is or isn’t, that doesn’t make it any less existent. God,” he raised the bottle she had placed down back up to his lips, “your stubbornness will be the death of me.”
“This isn’t stubbornness-“
“You’re right, stubbornness isn’t the right word. It’s obstinance. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but this isn’t something you can escape, not this time.”
“What isn’t?” Her face was red with wine and indignation. “If you’re oh-so-wise all of a sudden, please, enlighten me.”
He threw up his hands.
“See, we’re in a fight again, and I have no idea why! You’re perfectly infuriating at times, do you know that?”
“Me?” Offense rang in her voice, “I’m the infuriating one?”
“Yes, yes you are.”
“And have you met yourself?”
“At least I’m honest with myself.”
“Oh, are you really?”
He shrugged.
“Yes, always have been. My motives are never anything less than clear.”
“Then admit that you miss me, that you, in fact, are the one who is fond of me.”
He scowled.
“You’re reading too much into events.”
She raised her eyebrows.
“Oh am I?”
“Yes.” He straightened his posture. “In case you’ve forgotten, you’re kept here on my whim. You are a fine prize to keep, but as you say, that is the beginning and end of this relationship.”
“Oh really?” Her tone was saturated with her sarcasm. “It’s that simple? I’m just your mantlepiece decoration?”
“If you’re insinuating I have sentimental reasons for keeping you around, you are severely misinformed.”
“Oh am I?”
He flitted her words away with his hand.
“It was a nice try, but it’s time you stopped projecting your own issues onto me.”
“And what is that supposed to mean?”
He smiled at her, sarcastically, cruelly.
“It really is lucky you’re pretty, because you’re not particularly bright, my Dear.”
She stood angrily, turning to storm out. He caught her by the arm, standing as well. She pushed at his hand, annoyed.
“Let me go. You’re insufferable, I can’t believe that-“ she cut off, trying to pull away.
“That what? That you like me? That you’re fond of me? That you enjoy my presence?” He caught her in his other arm, pulling her to his chest. She pushed against him, agitated.
“That I could ever think you were anything less than heinous.”
“Less than heinous?” He raised his eyebrow, still smiling. “Why Darling, coming from you, that’s practically a love poem.” He let go of her. She stepped backwards swiftly, visibly ruffled.
“Don’t make it something it isn’t.”
“I’m trying, but last time you told me to go to hell, it ended up with more than just sharp words in your mouth.” She sputtered, unable to think of anything quite mean enough to say. He evened his tone. “Admit it, you’re duplicitous at best. You can’t blame me for being unsure of everything you say.”
“I will blame you for whatever the hell I want.”
He smiled, stepping closer to her again. She didn’t move, but her eyes were cold.
“You can’t be mad at me for things that are not my fault. I will admit, I deserve most of your abuse, but this is a rare case in which I am free from guilt. You really must learn to reconcile your own emotions.”
“Don’t preach at me.”
“It’s not preaching, it’s gentle guidance.”
“Gentle guidance? Do you realize how pretentious you sound?”
“Come now, haven’t you been harsh enough for the night?”

He slid his hands up her arms, pulling her scowling lips into a humorless kiss. She stood against him in the dark, rigid, letting him enfold her in his grasp. She bent into the touch, more compliant than enthusiastic, but the urgent nerves inside her were grateful for kind contact. She pulled down from the kiss, laying her head against his chest. She felt so lost. His arms wrapped tighter around her as he moved so that his chin rested on the top of her head. She didn’t move, didn’t respond, didn’t want to enjoy the warmth of him against her. It was so dark, so quiet, as if the house itself was watching. She closed her eyes, feeling treacherous to her very core.
His fingers traced small circles against her skin. She sighed, not committing to any words, feeling damned by all she could say.
They stayed there, feeling the encroaching morning creep up against them in the darkness of the room. Eventually he relaxed his grip, sliding down his fingers to take her by the arm.
“Come now, back to bed.”

Chapter Text

She was warm against him. Whether that was due to the wine or the swift movement of emotion he didn’t know. But she allowed herself to be led upstairs, getting into the bed quietly. She turned her back to him, emphasizing the space between them. It didn’t seem like long before she was asleep, breathing heavily. Must have been the wine. He tried to sleep but couldn’t, just laid there beside her, watching the ceiling in the dark.
She began to shiver in the coldness of the room. He felt her moving and looked over, watching her. She lay curled in the fetal position, the blankets pulled tight around her. Softly, he rolled closer, trying not to wake her up. He lulled a hand across her waist, fitting his legs behind her and his chest to her back. There was a pause in her breathing and then slightly, ever so slightly, she leaned into him. He breathed in the scent of her hair. Yes, she was a prize. A fine prize, but a prize none the less. He was fascinated by her, that was it.

She couldn't fall asleep. She lay still, measuring her breaths, trying to hypnotize herself into unconsciousness, or maybe just trying to see what it felt like to be quiet; it had been a long time since she had been able to be truly still.
She wasn’t sure if he was asleep or not; nothing seemed to perturb him for too long. He was a very present man, not subject to bouts of anxiety as she was. She fought the urge to look over her shoulder at him, squeezing her eyes shut tight against the thought. The room was cold, and despite the blankets pulled tight about her, she began to shiver. There must be something she could make that would keep it from becoming quite so cold at night; her thin bedclothes were not nearly enough to dispel the chill. She heard him roll over, and then his arm was spilling over her waist, his legs tucking behind hers, and his head resting against the back of her own. She felt his warm breath as he sighed. She froze, surprised. Was he awake? Or had he moved in his sleep? He didn’t speak; he must be asleep. She relaxed her rigid frame, trying not to stir him any further. She closed her eyes, grateful for the additional warmth, even if it was uninvited. Again, her gut tugged at her. It was so much easier to think of things in the abstract. But now, here, with him very much alive and incredibly vulnerable, he seemed entirely too human. Killing him really ought to require more effort. Her heart thrummed inside her. His fingers stirred against her. She knew she wouldn't sleep that night- she couldn't. It was too much. He was too much.

The night stretched to day lazily, taking its time. He kept his arm across her, protecting her as she slept. No, not protecting, more like guarding. Watching. She didn't move save for the rise and fall of her chest, the only movement reminding him that she was still there. Despite her unwavering presence, he was alone.
He shouldn't care about her stubborn denial. Even if she detested him, there was nothing she could do about the fact that he owned her. It didn't matter how she felt. And yet, it did matter, and it infuriated him. How could she be so completely opaque? His words earlier hadn't just been angry barbs- she was truly the most exasperating person he had ever dealt with. In hindsight, it shouldn't have been surprising, really. She was just like the rest of them, keeping all her motivations in the shadows, even from herself. He oscillated between anger and a sort of panging emptiness as the night reached its end slowly. He wasn't sure if he slept again, just that neither of them moved, separate yet together, as he waited out the dark.

Even with his arm across her, she felt so incredibly alone. Day came dreadfully slowly, as if waiting to see what would happen next, waiting in order to give them time to change the narrative. She resented its imposition in the matter, hoping it would come more quickly, be less involved within her own affairs. She watched the sunlight as it peeked over the windowsill, checking on them before reluctantly slipping across the room. She turned her head and was surprised to see him watching it too. She pushed herself up on her elbow.
He pulled away, removing himself from her, rolling onto his back, his hands behind his head. She resented the loss of heat.
“You been up long?”
He looked over at her. His eyes were tired, but still bright.
“Not terribly.”

She lay back down, subtly moving beneath his arm. He rested his hand on her shoulder. Silly girl, thinking she could sneak her way beside him without him noticing. She never gave him nearly enough credit. He drew small circles against the bare skin of her shoulder, fighting the urge to pull her closer to him. They stared at the ceiling together, neither one speaking for a long, drawn-out moment. She broke the silence first.
“I really don’t want to get up today.”
“Then don’t.”
She turned to look at him.
“I hardly think that’s the mature response.”
He shrugged.
“You’re an adult- make your own decisions.”
“If I don’t get up now, I never will.”
Giving in to temptation, he slid his hand across her stomach and pulled her to his side.
“There’s nothing wrong with that.”

“Oh yes there is.”
“Really? What will come tumbling down if you spend a day in selfishness?”
“Selfishness? No one ever said anything about selfishness, I just have a lot of work to get done.”
“No you don’t.”
“Yes, I literally do.”
“No, no you don’t.”
She cocked her eyebrow at him.
“Are we really going to play this game?”
He rub at her soft frame with his thumb, lazily closing his eyes.
“You’re always so incredibly busy doing nothing in particular, you’ll live if you take one day off.”
“Nothing in particular?” There was disbelief in her voice. “I am the only thing that keeps this house running.”
“In case you haven’t noticed, I did not, in fact, die before meeting you. I think we will manage.”
There was a pause as his words sat in the air.
“I do kind of want coffee though.”
“You know what, that’s fair.” He pushed himself up, sliding off the bed. She followed him, pulling her nightdress over her head.

He pretended that he wasn’t watching her, but with her back to him, he gave himself a moment of pleasure in perusing her lithe figure. She wasn’t by any means a curvy woman, all hourglass and just-right sizing - she was built more to a practical form, sleek, sturdy. He walked up behind her, placing his hands on the slight roundness of her hips. She startled forward. He was always surprised by how soft she was. She was so sharp in nature, it only seemed right that she would be all bone in form. But, as he was coming more and more to find out, that harshness seemed little more than an illusion; a hard shell meant to dissuade from closeness. He rubbed his fingers against her, placing a kiss on her neck. She stepped away, turning as she pulled a dress over her head.
“Are you really bored enough already that you need to tease me?”
“I wasn’t teasing.” He held his hands up in mock surrender. “You’re on edge aren’t you?” She rolled her eyes, turning her focus back to getting ready. He walked away, trying to concentrate on his own routine, trying not to think about just how very very soft she was under all that cloth.

She made her way into the bathroom to wash up. The water was cool across her hands as she rubbed the sleeplessness from her face. Her skin tingled where he had gripped her. What was he after? Aside from the obvious, of course. She clenched her jaw at the remembrance of his whisperings from the other day. Liar or not, he knew his way around words. She supposed he would have to make up for all his deficits in some way; he wasn’t exactly what one would call a sensual man, and yet. She thought to the night before, to his kissing her in the dark of the dining hall, to the gentle way he had held onto her in his sleep.
No, no she wasn’t fond of him, although, there was no reason for her not to get as much as she could from his presence. After all, it wouldn’t be much longer. She looked away from her reflection in the mirror, unable to meet her own eyes. No, it wouldn’t be long at all.

 

He was placing her cup on the table when she came down, book in hand. She tread over softly, reaching for it. He grabbed her before she could, pulling her into a fierce kiss. Her hand flew to his wrist, his fingers cradling the sides of her face, her jaw. He eased back from her, slowly.
“Mustn't forget your manners, Countess.” His words were a breath against her skin. She dropped his hands, shivering, gliding quickly into her seat.
"You're one to talk."
He sat down in his seat, lifting up the papers he had left on the table.
"I am a model of modern nobility."
"Yeah, okay, sure." She gripped the cup in her hands tight, savoring the warmth. They sat in silence. She felt as if she ought to say something, but she had nothing to say. It was all so real now. How do you interact with a person who doesn't know they don't have much time left?

"What's got you all bothered?" He didn't look up, addressing her in tone alone.
"I'm not."
He picked up the book she had placed on the table. It was another of her literary bricks, Crime and Punishment. How could one girl read so incredibly much?
"You're upset."
"I'm not upset."

He looked up at her exasperatedly.
"Really? You just enjoy looking sad? Actually, no, now that I'm saying it, that does make sense." He placed down the book, turning his attention back over to his own papers. She scoffed, trying to blow off his words.
"You know, you really don't need to pick fights as an excuse to talk to me."
"And who said I want to talk to you?"
"If you don't care then, I'll leave."
"Fine by me."
She didn't move. They sat together in silence a moment longer.
"I thought you were leaving.”
"I realized it would irritate you more if I stayed."
He looked up again, a cold blank expression fixed across his lips but there was a smile in his eyes. Her heart tripped.
He sighed.
"How's your leg?"
She looked down at it. It was nothing special, still somewhat banged up, but not concerning.
"It's fine."
"Actually fine or you fine?"
"I wasn't aware there was a difference."
"You're very haphazard in your treatment of yourself, I've had to learn to account for that."
"Oh, like it affects you at all."

She was right, of course. It shouldn't affect him- it didn't. He didn't care. Her leg could fall off for all it mattered. Although, that would be rather inconvenient for him. It was better to get his opinion on the matter; she was an oblivious girl.
"All the same."
Placing down his papers, he pushed his chair out, scooting himself towards her. She leaned back instinctively, but he stood close, lifting her roughly and perching her on the edge of the table.
"I'm not a child, you know." Her voice was bitter and sharp, no doubt embarrassed.
"Believe me, I am well aware of the fact." If anything, he tried to push the remembrances down as he lifted the fabric above her knees, taking her chair as he moved his hands over her leg. "You've re-bandaged it?"
"I'm not as helpless as you seem to think."
He looked up at her. She had a delicious indignant blush to her cheeks, but she continued to allow his imposition, humoring his concern, no, curiosity.
"Quite. Does it hurt any?"
"It's fine, don't worry about it."
He scoffed as he stood up.
"Worry? You overestimate me.”
"Fine, yes, whatever." She moved down, holding his shoulder for support. He lifted a hand behind her waist, helping her balance. She paused, as if with a sudden realization. Softly, she lifted her free hand to his chest, and then pulling him softly, drew him down into a kiss.
The tenderness of her hands alarmed and surprised him. Whenever she kissed him, it was with an urgent motivation, all tight grip and mostly teeth. It was as if she had melted, and now he held a silk replica in his arms. She was so soft, sensually soft. He pushed back against her, tightening his grip. She lowered herself from the kiss as if the small aggression in his act had broken the spell.
"For the coffee." Her tone was distracted as she stepped away.
"I'd already stolen away your kiss for this morning. Not that I'm complaining."
She paused, as if lost in thought.
"Oh. Must have miscounted. My mistake."
"Any time." He muttered the words, still confused, as he sat down again. She was lost in thought, her eyes dark mirrors of his still untouched cup, the deep brown glimmering with unspoken thoughts. He looked away, feeling almost as if he would have intruded upon something if he looked at her for too long.
Something inside him hungered for more. Yes, he had had her, and in fact had been the only one to do so, but this was something new; an undisclosed tenderness, so different from the angry clutching he was used to. It was a different kind of seductive urge, playing at the same emotions he had had last night with his arm about her - a desire to protect, to watch over... something. He was curious, though he could not articulate why.

She needed to make peace with his humanness, with his occasional bouts of softness, if she was going to do… what she would. She stared into her mug, not really caring as it burnt the tips of her fingers. They sat in silence for a few minutes before she left the room softly, letting the sounds of her steps trail behind her.

Chapter Text

He couldn’t find her for a while. He checked her usual hiding spots- the garden, her inventing room, the bedroom, but she was nowhere to be found. Finally, exasperatedly entering the kitchen for a fresh glass of wine, he found her sitting on the counter. He raised his eyebrow in confusion.
“Comfortable?”
She looked up at him, pulled out of the pages of a book which she snapped shut quickly. He took it from her hands, opening it to the page she had tucked her finger into as way of bookmark. He furrowed his brow. “Erysichthon? What is that supposed to be?”
“It’s Greek.” She sighed, taking it back from him. He moved his eyes back up to her, watching her face.
“Greek? What do you need such bloody stories for?”
“Like you have any space to judge.”
“Not judging, just curious. Any particular reason why you’re all tucked away?”
She looked around herself, as if noticing her spot for the first time.
“There’s good light in here. Makes it easy to read.”
He nodded slowly, as if he understood.
“Quite. So you’re acting terribly guilty for no particular reason then, or?”
“I’m not acting guilty - what do I have to be guilty of?” Her voice rang with offense.
“That’s what I’m trying to uncover.” He placed his hands on either sides of her knees casually, shifting his weight so that their eyes were on level. “You’re acting like you’re up to something - what are you up to?”
She looked at him in disbelief.
“Am I not allowed to read in the kitchen now? Sorry, didn’t realize it was so controversial.”
“It’s not just that, it’s,” he gestured up and down, “you. All of you. You’ve been acting strange, more so than usual.” She met his eyes, her jaw clenched. She made no reply, but softly slid forward, pushing her way off the counter. He took a step back, affording her space. She held the book tight to her chest, pivoting to leave but then paused. She looked back at him, studying his face. Quietly, she put down her book, and then lifting her hands gently, brought them to the sides of his jaw and neck. He watched her, confused, until she pulled him down softly, leaning once more into a reverent, almost mournful kiss. He tried to move his hands lightly this time, not wanting to ruin whatever it was she was doing. His fingers slid to her back, desperate to hold her against him, to push her to the counter, to slip his tongue between her teeth. And yet, she seemed so entrancingly fragile. She pulled herself to her toes, trying to make up for the disparity in height. He rubbed his thumb against her, enjoying the dull heat of her beneath her clothes. Softly, slowly, she lowered her fingers, taking him by the hand, leading him out of the doorway.

When they reached the top of the stairs, he felt an instinctive urge to carry her across the threshold to the bedroom- after all, they had never really had a honeymoon. Something told him to take this moment seriously though, and truthfully, he was curious to see what she was trying to do. She pulled him along gently, more guiding than anything else. Quietly, gracefully, she climbed onto the mattress, trailing him along behind her like the tail to a kite. He was smiling, though he tried to swallow it down. No doubt if he appeared over-eager she would fly away again. He knelt alongside her, his head stooped to meet her lips. Gently, more persuasion than movement, he pulled her into his lap so that she straddled him, her knees beside his hips, her soft lips still plucking at him beautifully. Slowly, almost reverently, he moved his hands from her back to her hips, feeling the flush of her skin beneath her dress. Had the fabric always been so thin?

She could feel his erection pressing against her through their clothes. He was not a particularly complicated man. She held his face between her hands, taking charge of the moment, setting a deliberately slow pace. She needed to be in control. If she was going to complete her plan, she needed to be willing to see him interact with some degree of tenderness; she needed to be sure she could handle it. She could feel his breath shaking against her lips. Following her tempo was killing him, and yet he didn’t fight, probably just glad to be there, she thought amusedly.

She leaned back, creating a wonderful pressure as her hips shifted. He examined her face, her beautiful, beautiful face. She was incredibly fun to watch. She met his eyes flickeringly and then looked down. Gently, she lowered her hands from his face, trailing them down his shoulders, across his chest. She opened the buttons along his shirt individually, painfully slowly, as if savoring his suffering. Perhaps he was a bit too eager in pulling it off once she was done, he could feel the frantic look in his eyes, but she was still here, and that was all that mattered. Taking her cue, he began to undo the buttons and ties on the front of her dress. She leaned back, letting him. A smile ghosted across her lips. He helped her as she lifted the fabric over her head, and then she was back against him again, kissing him softly, with anticipatory eagerness. She eased herself back. His fingers tightened against her, wanting to hold her in place, but her hands slid up his thighs, untangling the closures at the top of his pants.
He pulled her back against himself as soon as he had kicked his way free, and was pleased to note the quiet humming that emanated from her when he rocked himself back against her, pressing his erection into her hip. Her fingers were cold as they traced along his shoulders. Softly, she undid the lacings of her slip and brassiere, allowing him the greedy honor of slipping them off, taking a heart-wrenching moment to admire her in the light. She was absolutely perfect- ravishingly, deliciously so. He pulled her back towards himself, burying his face in her neck, kissing at the supple skin of her shoulder and throat. She sighed contentedly, gripping him about the shoulders, holding him against herself. Gingerly, he lay her down beneath him, feeling the heat of her body against his naked skin, enjoying her thin fingers gripping at him. He continued to kiss at her neck, working across her jaw and collarbone before bringing his lips back up to her own where she readily opened her mouth to his presence. He slipped his tongue between her teeth, not ravishingly, but savoring the presence, taking the time to enjoy her. His hands slid along her leg, wandering against her thigh, tracing at the delicate skin. He moved down, kissing at her chest, running his thumb across her ribs gently as the other hand still grazed at the skin of her hips, waiting for her affirmations. She placed her hands over his, taking the fingers he had splayed across her ribs and bringing his hand to her breast before steering him back into a deep kiss. His hand cupped the soft skin perfectly, his fingertips tracing at the tender spots at the base and height of her breast. She arched into the touch, pressing his still urgent erection against herself as a result. He groaned against her lips, a yearning sound that seemed to emanate from deep within his self.

She tried not to shake as she took his other hand, his wanting fingers still dancing at the joint of her hips. Calculatingly, she placed her fingers over his own, gently guiding him as he kissed at the sides of her mouth and edge of her jaw. He allowed her to lead his hand down, down, and then he was pressing his fingers inside her, pulling a moan from between her gritted teeth. He continued to kiss at her throat, humming a note of pleasure as he savored her, moving in time with her curiously slow pace. Her hands fluttered to the back of his neck, holding him to her, gasping as he worked his way across her. He ground his erection against her, and she moaned in reply.
He kissed her on the lips again, leaning up so that he was above her.
"Are you okay for-"
"Yes, I'm here." She pulled him back down on top of her, enjoying the pressure as he balanced his weight, just enough to press against her, but not so much so that she was crushed. He resumed his work, kissing her lips delightedly. Gingerly, almost tenderly, he slid himself inside her, groaning into the welcoming warmth. She took a deep breath in, clutching at his back, savoring the sensation of him above her, him against her, him between her legs. He began to rock into her with slow, deep strokes, using the kisses of her lips as metronome to keep time.
Gradually, he worked his way down, moving his mouth over the sensitive and now reddened skin of her neck and collarbone. She tightened her grip around him, holding him tightly to herself. He slid a hand beneath her, lifting her against himself, allowing her to bury her face against his neck as he quickened his pace.

Her fingers scratched at his back as she pressed herself against him with a seeming urgency for contact. He rocked inside her, gritting his teeth, feeling his climax grow more imminent with every moment. She was his, all his, willingly and beautifully. Her arms tightened about him as she cried out. He pressed her back down, moving his lips to her mouth, kissing her softly, deeply, earnestly. She rocked her hips forward, crying out as she did so. He tightened his grip reflexively, clinging to her. She held him about his neck, arching against him, her perfect lips perfectly parted in a cry of ecstasy.
“Damn it, Violet.” He moved his lips across her neck. She whimpered but clung to him tighter, as if he were a piece of driftwood that would save her from drowning. Almost frantic with his need, he pushed back against her, overwhelmed by her, desperate for her. She cried out again against his shoulder. His hands sliding down across her frame pressed her tight to himself, the friction of movement overspilling, erupting, rupturing his thoughts. The scent of her hair, the flush of her cheek against his own, the pressure of her gripping hands, it was all so much; she surrounded him completely. And all at once, he knew that he was well and truly fucked.

Her climax blossomed out of her, filling her senses. It was divine inspiration, holistic experience, cosmic understanding. It was overwhelming to say the least.
“Please,” the word escaped her unwittingly, jumping out from behind her teeth, beneath her tongue. She didn’t understand what exactly it was she was asking for, but he responded quickly by running his hand across her back, holding her firmly, almost protectively, surrounding her in his grip. She was already pressed to him, and still, she needed to be closer, closer. He shuddered his own climax against her, breathing sharply, gaspingly. She moaned against the bare skin of his shoulder, her eyes shut tight, overwhelmed with sensation.

He began to push his way up, off of her. She tightened the grip of her fingers. He paused, and then lay down beside her. She shuffled over, laying her head on his chest so that his arm wrapped behind her, her uneven breaths skirting against his skin. Gently, confusedly, he draped his other arm across her, lightly rubbing at her. She shifted closer to him, sighing. His insides caught in his throat. Quietly, he placed a kiss to the top of her head, stroking his hand across her back and through her hair, caressing her, feeling the panic in his gut.

She closed her eyes with a desire to never open them again.

Chapter Text

They might have stayed like that for years. He certainly would have, given the opportunity. He hoped she couldn't feel his heart, intent on bursting out of his chest. This was fine, he told himself, nothing was changed. Plenty of married couples were fond of one another, there was nothing wrong with that.
But it wasn't fondness. He scowled, hating the fact. And it wasn't territorial possessiveness- it was this deep, instantaneous desire to protect her, to watch over her. He felt the need to hold her. He was disgusted at the thought, and yet, there she was, his wandering fingers caressing her hair for no reason other than to bring her comfort. He stopped quickly, willing his hands to lay still.
"Don't stop."
Her words were a whisper. He hesitated a moment, and then resumed his gentle petting. The top of her head lay against his lips, her soft hair brushing at his face. His jaw tightened. He hated her- didn't he? People often said that hate was a passionate emotion, easily confused with... others. He hated her, definitively and totally. And yet, he found no satisfaction in the thought of killing her- moreover, the very idea of harming her made him nauseous with anger.
He was just confused because their dynamic was changing- now that she was a part of his crew of henchmen, things were bound to be different. He was her leader and her husband. Although, he honestly doubted anyone would ever be able to truly exert control over her. But hadn't she brought him here, surrendered to him, submitted to him? A part of him nagged that no, she really hadn't, that it was entirely possible that she slept with him for autonomous reasons, but he quickly pushed it down, now wanting to deal with such thoughts. She was fond of him, and that was what was confusing him- that must be the heart of the matter. And yet, he mused, somewhat forlorn, if she was the one complicating things, why was it him who bore the brunt of the matter?

She hoped he couldn't feel the speed of her heart against him. She could do it. She would do it. Her thoughts were an anxious knot sitting in her stomach like stones; dragging her down, down, down into the murky water of her own plans.
She could do it. She would do it.
His hand brushed against her, sliding through her hair, stroking at her neck and back. She felt a sigh escape her, embarrassingly. She hoped he hadn't heard. He was quiet, no doubt praising himself in his head, unaware or uncaring as she suffered through her own personal hell.
Although, she did feel that calling her predicament "hell" might be a bit extreme. She was overthinking it. She needed to not think so much, to just let it happen. His hand slid against her. She opened her eyes.
His face was screwed up in intense concentration. No doubt he had already moved on to thoughts of his "work," leaving her behind. She was useful so long as she was in front of him, but ceased to exist when he looked away.
She could do it. She would do it.

He could think of nothing but her. She was a succubus- there was no other explanation. She was his punishment, the sword he fell on. Did she do it on purpose? Or did she genuinely not realize her infuriating ways? He didn't know which was worse.
He stared at a spot on the ceiling, fixated, as if it held all his answers. Her hand moved against him and he sighed, not realizing just how cold the room was until it was compared to the heat of her. He rubbed at her shoulder, hoping she wasn't cold. He clenched his jaw.
How was he supposed to function this way? It was entirely inconvenient- did people really manage with this massive weight dragging around in their chests? He didn't have time for this, or her for that matter. This was all a huge amount of nonsense that would blow over in no time at all. And yet.

She closed her eyes again. Her heart hurt. What would her parents think?
What would her parents think? She thought she knew once, but now she was unsure. The ends justified the means in this case, and yet, she couldn't help but feel that she was losing something important in stooping to such a level. In a morality contest she would still come out on top, but everything would be different. She would be different. The thoughts rocked her. She looked back up at him. He looked far away, far far away from here, from her, from this. She was jealous.

"What are you thinking about?"
He looked down at her, somewhat surprised to hear her voice. He paused.
"Nothing at all. You?"
"Nothing at all." Her words were a whisper against his skin. He ran his fingers against her back, reassuring himself that she was still there, and not a simple ghost haunting him as retribution. She curled her fingers against him.

Chapter Text

She didn't want to get up and face the evening. After a sleepless night, she was tired, and in the warmth of his arms, she was ready to slip into soft unconsciousness. His slow breaths raised her head up and down, moving her ever so slightly, the gentle tangle of his fingers in her hair a comforting rhythm. She fought the desire to close her eyes, to fall asleep, even if just for a moment.

His thoughts raced, turbulent within him. She was so vulnerable, so soft. For a moment he felt guilty, like he was bringing her into something she never belonged within, but then again, wasn't this her birthright? His fingers danced across her, threading through her hair, against her skin. His heart ruptured within him, melancholy. His lips brushed the top of her head.

She ought to get up, but she was so tired, and hungry for touch. How could one person be so drowningly alone but also stifled under another’s watch? She despised him, but he was the only companionship she had.
“What are you trying to do?”
He glanced down at her.
“Pardon?”
“Why would you even care—What are you trying to do?”
“Have you forgotten how to make sentences now? That’s inconvenient.”
“You’re infuriating, do you know that?”
“Ah, and we’re back to insulting me, okay. This is familiar at least.” He raised his hand away from her, bringing it to rest smugly behind his head. She turned to look at him.
“I mean, why bother with all of this?” She drew circles in the air with her gesturing hand, “There is literally no reason to have kept me here. You yourself have expressed immense displeasure at the fact, so what are you gaining by keeping me?”
“What kind of husband would I be if I married you and then sent you into the streets? Or better yet, killed you?” He closed his eyes lazily, his tone unconcerned.
“An honest one.”
He shook his head.
“It’s tacky at best. What am I, a b-list villain?”
“Realistically? Yes.”
He opened his eyes, frowning, glaring down at her.
“That is perhaps the most unkind thing you have ever said to me. And here I was suffering under the impression that you were a nice girl.”
“There is literally nothing to support that idea.”
“Shh shh shh shh shhhh,” he held his hand over her lips, “you’re a nice girl, don’t fight that.”
“I used to be.” She pulled his hand away.
“Well what about you, why would you stay?” She glared at him. “Oh, fair, that’s right.” He closed his eyes again, tilting his head away from her, massaging the bridge of his nose with his fingers.
“You’ve never answered my question though, why keep me here?”
“Would you rather I had killed you?”
“Stop diverting.”
He sighed, looking down at her from beneath his hand, “It’s a sad day when a husband’s death threats no longer phase his wife. Like all the magic has finally disappeared.”
“Be serious!” She shoved him in the ribs.
“I am serious. All the mystery is gone.”
“You’re diverting again.”
“I guess I just don’t know, then.” He looked down at her. “You’re an attractive woman and I like inspiring jealousy in my subordinates. Is that answer enough?”
“No, but I’ll accept it for now.” They lay in silence for a few moments more.
“Why do you care, anyway?”
“I don’t have a right to know?”
“You don’t have a reason to know.”
“I beg to differ. Besides, you’re the one complaining about lack of mystery, I’ll do you a favor and not answer.”
“Oh come now, you know I don’t understand a single thing about you.”
“Just what you can use to your advantage.”
“As in all things.” She pushed herself up and off the bed. “And where are you off to?”
“Someone has to make dinner.”
“It’s hardly late enough.”
“It’s six o’clock.”
He stared out the window, confusedly accusatory, “It can’t be.”
“Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.” She lifted the tabletop clock to show him. It was, in fact, just after six. He lay back down, groaning. “What does it matter to you, anyway?”
“Time is inconvenient.”
“Alright. Well.” She stretched, striding across the room, pulling her clothes back on. “While you fight the concept of time, I’m going to go get started with the cooking.”
"You could just as easily not."
"Sure, and then when my house is filled with drunken hungry degenerates, that will just be loads of fun."
“It is MY house and those are MY degenerates you are speaking of.”
“I didn’t say anything untruthful.”
He pushed his way up into a sitting position, pulling on his own clothes and watching her as she pulled her hair back tightly. “You’re ready for tomorrow, I presume?”
There was a noticeable stutter in her movement as she froze before swiftly going back to work.
“Yes, of course.”
“The others should arrive shortly beforehand, giving us just enough time for prep-“

“I’ve been thinking about that,” She tried to keep her voice steady, “and, what purpose do they serve exactly?”
He frowned, “Why?”
She shrugged, hopefully nonchalantly, “It just seems redundant to me. What could possibly go so wrong that we need to literally double the amount of people involved?” He didn’t respond. “I just think there’s a much better chance of it going right with less people. Unless, of course, you think you need the help. Granted, it is a simple operation, but…” She watched him in the mirror out of her periphery. Her words had the desired effect, nagging at his pride.
“Of course we don’t NEED them. It’s just-“
“No no, I get it. In case your plan isn’t good enough-“
“Isn’t good enough?” He stood, walking over to her, spinning her by the shoulders so that she was facing him. “I’ll have you know that in addition to my myriad of other talents, I am simply the best at creating and undertaking strategic planning.”
“Oh,” She hoped her voice sounded innocent, “then what purpose do the two others serve?”
He paused, and then smirking, looked down at her patronizingly.
“I see what you’re doing.”
“Doing? You mean braiding my hair?” She fought to keep her tone even.
“Your games can’t fool me.” He leaned down so that their eyes were level, “You want to make sure you get your own part of the glory.”
She blinked quickly, confused, “The gl-“
“You were hoping to impress everyone by taking such a large part on your first heist.”
She held her breath behind her teeth, calculating.
“Yes, that’s—I guess I can’t fool you.”
He straightened up, smug, “If you were anyone else, I wouldn’t allow such transparent manipulation, but with you,” he appraised her quickly, “it’s a fine look.” She tightened her jaw.
“So the other two then-“
“I’ll find some new place for them.” His voice was a purr as he smirked down at her, still rolling in his pride. “What a tricky little minx you are.” He pinched her cheek then turned away and walked out the door, heading back to his work no doubt. She released the breath she had been holding. He was fooled, for now. She was almost there. Her stomach turned over anxiously. She could do it. She would do it.

Chapter Text

He knew that wasn't the whole of it; she didn't just want to take the glory for herself. He hadn't mentioned it, of course, but it burned within him, choking up the back of his throat, curling his lips into a smile. She was trying to get closer to him. She wouldn't admit it, but that was hardly surprising. She had to do everything on her own terms, and this wasn't any different. He couldn't let her know he knew, or he would risk spoiling the whole thing. She was trying to get closer to him.
His insides buzzed with the familiar high of a victory - he had won her, or at the very least, he was damn close to it. She was falling into place as he knew she would, and it wouldn't be much longer now. The idea was even more exciting than he had previously thought, even more enthralling and intoxicating to imagine. The very idea of her looking at him with anything bordering upon adoration sent chills across his spine.

Her distaste rattled against her teeth, dripped into her lungs, filled her thoughts with vinegar. She made her way down the stairs and into the kitchen. She wanted to lose herself in the act of cooking, to not think, not plan, not worry for just the hour or two it would take to cook. And yet, she couldn't afford not to. She was running out of time, and quickly. There was no more than twenty-four hours to go. She stared at her hands, scrubbing at them beneath the cold water.
It simultaneously wasn't nearly time enough, and also managed to be far too much time altogether. She tried to imagine the life she could lead once he was no longer in it, and though the thought made her lighter, it also brought a biting hollowness with it.
The door opened and he strode in, as if he knew she had been thinking about him. Really, that was unsurprising as she rarely got the chance to think about anything else. He stood behind her, peering over her shoulder as she worked with the knife, cutting herbs into small sections.
"You've quite the skill with a blade, you know."
"Is that a complement?"
"A great one, actually." He rested his hands against her, casually, comfortably. She bit back the urge to shrink away.
"Do you need something?"
"Just came to enjoy the view." He paused. "And for the merlot."
"It's beneath the pantry, to the left."
He removed his hands from her, hunting his alcohol down. She continued her work, trying not to look up, taking total disinterest in his actions.

He leaned against the counter beside her, swirling the wine in his glass.
"So who taught you knife-work?"
"Pardon?"
He gestured toward her hands, "All that cutting and slicing you're doing. Who taught you?"
She shook her head, "I'm self-taught, where would I have occasion to learn?"
He hummed a note of approval, still watching her. His kind words seemed to disquiet her. He liked that.
"You're a natural. With a little training, I bet you could do wonders."
She froze, knife still poised above the cutting board, before bringing it down swiftly, re-immersing herself in her work.
"I'll take a pass."
"No, come here, look." He put his glass down, and taking the knife from her, stood behind her, holding her shoulder with his left hand. "It's a different grip, but you'll catch on." He put the handle back into her hand, tightening his fingers over the fist she made. "See, you keep your arm up like this, and then your other comes up to here," he moved his free hand to her other arm, lifting it into place, "saves your neck, literally." He moved his hand from her arm, bringing it down to her hips, shifting her back into a pivot. "There we go--alright, so step two-"
"What are you doing?" She stepped out of his grip, placing the knife on the counter. He looked at her, surprised.
"Teaching you to knife-fight."
"But why?"

He shrugged, as if confused why she would even ask such a question, "Can't a husband teach his wife to wield a knife without ulterior motive?"
"No. What are you doing?"
"If you're going to be helping me from now on, it really is in your best interest to learn."
"What? No," she shook her head, "this is a one-time thing, I made that very clear."
He raised his eyebrow, "Did you?"
"Yes, I agreed to play my part, but nothing more."
"And then you volunteered to start a fire." She clenched her jaw. "Not that I'm judging or complaining, just keep it in mind. I’m just trying to extend a gesture of goodwill - even if you don't ever have occasion use it, it's far better to have and not need than to need and not have." He tapped her chin up with his knuckle, retiring back to the counter's edge.
"Whatever you say. Can I return to cooking now, or are you planning on accosting me again?"
He scoffed, "Don't be so dramatic. Besides, if someone were to accost you now, you'd have a reliable defense. Or at least a somewhat reliable defense. You're welcome."
She rolled her eyes, going back to her work. "I'm dramatic, got it."
"Yes, you are. Everything that happens to you is the worst thing that has ever happened to you."
"To be fair, it is. There is a noticeable continual decline across my life."
"There you go again! Not everything is so horribly terrible."
"Alright, well, thank you for your input."
"Anything I can do to help." He walked away.
She paused, looking at the knife. Slowly, she shifted it in her hand again, feeling the weight in her palm. It did have a chillingly natural feel to it. The kitchen was quiet around her. Had her hand always fit around the hilt so easily? She sighed, wading through her thoughts. This would all be over soon enough, and then she would be free to put such treachery behind her permanently. Softly, the hair was brushed from the back of her neck. She shrieked, spinning around.
Olaf grabbed her wrist before she managed to bring the knife down. "Christ, what the hell are you doing?!"
"I thought you had left!"
"So you tried to kill me?!"
"No I- what were you doing sneaking up on me?"
"Sneaking up on you?"
"Sneaking up on me!"
"I didn’t even leave the room! All I did was walk over to you!"
"You snuck up!"
He took the knife from her hand, "Well forgive me, I didn't realize I was committing a mortal offense. Why so jumpy in the first place?"
"You were the one going on about knife fighting; it's not exactly a calming topic."
"Still doesn't make me deserving of execution, though." He placed the knife on the counter, pausing to release a wearied sigh. "I guess I should be proud your instincts are so strong though."
"Putting me into a constant state of fear is not something to be proud of."
"It is if it allows you to protect yourself."
"From you."
"Once again," he lifted his hands in the air, "I wasn't sneaking."
"Then what were you doing?"
"It's my goddamn house, am I not allowed to stand in my kitchen?"

He had been watching her, evidently a little too quietly. She was so exquisite, so wonderfully beautiful. He had only meant to brush aside the hair on her neck, maybe kindle that flame of kindness within her. It wasn't supposed to be a suicide attempt. Although, despite his unhappiness at almost being murdered, he did have to admire her form. She was a natural. She rolled her shoulders back, relaxing her stance. She would become quite talented with time.
"At any rate, all is forgiven." He placed a kiss to the top of her head, smirking. She looked up at him darkly, questioningly. She was so predictable, always angry with him. It was adorable. "I shall forgive the attempt, Brutus, on the condition that another doesn't follow it."

Her stomach churned with her. His fingers slid across the side of her face, tucking a stray section of hair behind her ear, before lifting her chin so that he could kiss her. Her thoughts burned within her, singeing the insides of her ribs in dark sorrow.

Chapter Text

If they were louder tonight she couldn’t tell. She slid amongst them voicelessly, focused on doing her job and nothing but. They didn’t address her anymore; no yells in her general direction, no rude barking orders interrupting her. They weren’t afraid of her, but they seemed uncertain. Her presence was a miscalculation and it made them uneasy. She wasn’t sure if she preferred it that way; she didn’t like being the subject of their thoughts in any direction.

Their chatter was filled with excited anticipation. He sat in his spot at the head of the table, doing his best to appear unperturbed, as if the only reason he wasn’t already celebrating his victory was the gauche nature of it all. He tried not to watch her too incessantly; to not allow her to drag his eye across the room as she usually did, capturing his attention selfishly. Her face was cold, no doubt with nerves. He tried to remember back to his first time, to try to imagine what it was that she was feeling, but it was too far back, too deep within him to be reached. No matter. He reached his hand out to her as she passed, stroking her arm. She looked at him as if were a mouse that had scurried across her hand before settling her face backing into a forced tranquility. He pulled at her, trying to guide her by the wrist over towards himself. She balanced the plates she was holding against her shoulder, pushing off of him.
“Someone has to do all the work.” He let her go reluctantly, not fighting as she left through the door back into the kitchen.
The troop turned to him nervously as she left.
“So what happens next?”
He turned to face the man who had spoken, dubiety across his face, “Pardon?”
“After it all. What happens with her?”
“I don’t follow your meaning.”
“Come on. After this is all said and done, she’ll hardly be helpful anymore; they’ll have dozens of red flags surrounding her.”
He regarded the man coldly, quizzically, “The same could be said for any one of us.”
“True, true, but at least we all come with added benefit.” As soon as he said it, he looked as if he could bite his tongue off for the words it had allowed to escape. Olaf watched him icily, letting him fizzle in his fear as he swirled his glass lazily in his hand.
“Are you under the impression that I do not know what I am doing? Do you perhaps think you might do better?”
The man shifted in his seat uncomfortably. The surrounding members of the troop watched, not saying anything.
“No, no, not at all, it’s just, I don’t understand-“
“You are correct; you do not understand. So let me get this straight - after having her live in this house for four years, privy to all of our plans and tales of glory, after having her play a central part in what will assuredly be a great escapade, and letting her gain information during said plot in order to further aid our own cause, you would like to, what? Put a bow on her and hand her over to the loving volunteers? Have her pinky promise not to say a word? Or should we set up a watch for her, take turns stalking her from now until forever, because that’s really so much more convenient than having her hand you your dinner? What was your plan? Please, enlighten me.” He leaned forward, bitingly sarcastic, enjoying the look of horror on the man’s face as he slunk further down.
“Oh, I guess I didn’t think-”
“No, you didn’t. Try and learn to make a habit of it, if you can.” He glanced up at the rest of the table, seeing if anyone else had anything to say. They all looked away with a forced chatter, pretending that they hadn’t overheard the short conversation. He leaned back in his chair, the bitterness of his mood ruining his previously high spirits. Something about justifying her presence left him feeling grimy, as if he should have just shouted out “Because I want her here!” and have had that be enough. He didn’t like the feeling of having her be a tool to him, despite his long assurance that she was nothing more and nothing less. Again that protective instinct gnawed at him, running along his insides, twisting him into knots. He scowled into his drink.

She pushed the door open with her hip, placing the bottles in her hands on the table, before moving to refill his drink. He looked up, surprised to find her there. He seemed continually surprised at her presence. She wondered how long it would take for him to notice if she disappeared or replaced herself with a cardboard cutout. She garnered she could buy herself a few hours at least. As if hearing her thoughts, his hand slid to her waist, not grabbing her so much as holding her beside him.

She shifted her weight so that she was leaning against him, as if reassuring him of her presence. He ran his thumb against her, appreciating the pressure of her arm against his shoulder. He handed his glass to her and she took a deep drink of it.

This would all be gone so soon.

She didn’t usually stand so close to him for so long. He tried not to think too hard on the subject, to just enjoy it, but his insides were ticking like a pressurized bomb, threatening to explode, scattering him across the room if not for the gentle touch of her hand. She was too much. He rested his head against her gently, trying not to overemphasize the movement. When her fingers smoothed his jacket in response, her touch felt like absolution.

How strange to be so impermanent. She felt the fabric of his coat beneath her fingertips. She was no stranger to death, and yet it never really lost its strangeness. He felt like a ghost, an apparition of a predetermined story ending, a footnote in a book already closed. He couldn’t do anything to her now. No matter what he threatened, he never could be fast enough to win. The thought inspired a sort of pity in her. It seemed somewhat unfair for him to lose without even knowing there was a game to be played. She felt sick at the thought; since when were matters of life and death a game to her? Did she really have moral ground to make this decision?

Her eyes were daggers, question marks, pools of black coffee. If not for the slight warmth where she touched him, that slight area where he buzzed with the feeling of touching the divine, he would have sworn she was more porcelain than person. Even her dress fell across her figure too perfectly. It folded about her, whispering secrets to him about the skin beneath her clothes. He looked away, trying to distract himself. But what could possibly distract him from the way her lips parted as she sighed. He thought of her setting the fire, of kissing her in front of the burning building, of having her finally recognize just how powerful a man he was. His hand wandered to her thigh.

She could feel his braced frame against her. For such an uncaring man, he really was continually poised, always careful about how he looked and appeared. He was vigilant with his actions, rationing them as the circumstance necessitated. She looked out across the table. It was late, and the members of his troop were slowly trailing out, leaving one by one. How strange to think she would never have to cook for them again. The feeling filled her with a blooming excitement. Of course, the dirty dishes spread across the table were less than ideal, but she was almost there.
He hadn’t drank much that night - perhaps he was trying to stay sharp for tomorrow. The thought filled her with dread. She refilled his glass, pressing it into his hand. He took it with something that might be mistaken as gratitude, if not for the host of the emotion. The chatter became quieter and quieter, even his loud voice not enough to dispel the soft sleepiness that skirted in with the lateness of the hour. Finally, the last of them were gone, heading out into the dark night, the sun only a few hours from rising. She didn’t want to sleep; everything seemed so new, so sharp in the possibility of each moment being the last time she did something. She didn’t move, reluctant to lose even a second of it.

Chapter Text

She didn’t move, and he didn’t want to either; to lose a second of her willing touch seemed a tragedy. Her eyelashes were dark curtains, and she stared out at the empty room as if to memorize it. She didn’t look away until he moved his hand against her, drawing her attention to him sharply. He stood, still holding her close.
“You seem lost in thought; what are you thinking about?”
“Nothing, I must have zoned out, sorry.”
He smirked, “I hardly buy that, but alright, I’ll let you keep your secrets.” She watched him, her expression unchanging, the same studious intensity in her eyes. He felt very suddenly like one of those books she was always reading. Softly, he bent down, lowering his lips to the level of hers, kissing her gently. She didn’t push against him, but instead raised her hands to his shoulders. The touch made him uneasy, like he was suddenly writ in braille beneath her hands; even with her eyes closed she was still able to read him. She was so delicate, and yet, he felt as if at any moment she could break him. His hand moved hesitantly to her waist, waiting for the sly nymph to disappear, dissolve back into the backdrop. His heart filled with a fire as she met his presence, matching his movement just enough to condone if not reciprocate. She would never be his, not truly, and he felt his bones plummet at the notion. He was not a man used to losing.

She let him kiss her, feeling the slight give of pressure, the shaking warmth of his grip. He seemed cautious, hesitant, as if suddenly unsure of himself. For such a self-proclaimed man, the change was startling. He held her to him rather than pressing himself to her; clutching, not grabbing. The difference was unnerving. He pulled away from her lips, resting a kiss against the top of her head. She didn't speak, unsure of what to say.
“Violet.”

Her name was a sigh, a ghost escaping him. Her tender hand raised to cover his, situated on the side of her face.
“Yes?”
“I just enjoy saying your name.”
“You don't make much of a habit of it.”
She had him there. He usually resorted to various terms of ownership or patronization. He placed another kiss to her head.

“I will be sure to remedy that, then.” He kissed her forehead, still holding her softly. “My fiery Bride.” He kissed her lips. “My Dearest.” Tenderly, he brushed his kiss down her jaw, to the crook of her neck. “My Violet.”
She shivered, her fingers tightening on his shoulders. He was a specter, a dead man walking. And yet, he was all too visceral, too present. She felt the urge to throw herself to the ground, to run away, to do anything but remain on her current trajectory, but still she stayed.

His arm slid across her waist, his hand resting on her lower back. He kept his face in the curve of her neck, feeling her unsteady breaths press her chest against his, her fluttering fingers unsure of themselves. She did not move away from him, did not run, did not dissipate.

She shivered in the edging darkness of the room, the quiet having seemingly consumed all the precious light. He tightened his grip about her, moving back up so that he could kiss her lips. It was uncomfortable to see him act so soft. She wasn't sure how to handle it. Gingerly, he straightened back up.
“My Violet.” There was a sad smile to his tone before he turned to leave, crossing into the entrance hall. She followed him, maintaining the distance between them, waiting to see what he was doing, what treacherous trap all this softness was leading to. He didn't look back, embarking upon the stairs, ready to leave her behind. She caught him by the wrist, determined to find out.

He turned to look at her, her hair not-quite-loose yet, but making busy work of falling out of place. She never seemed able to keep it all up for long. With a slight smile, he pulled the ribbon from her braid, letting it become unwoven and fall across her shoulders. She didn't relinquish her grip, confused determination writ across her features.
“What is this?”
“What is what?” He tried to keep his tone nondescript.
“You're calling me by my name now? What are you playing at?”
He cocked his eyebrow, “Playing at? I'm not playing at anything.”
“You're acting strange.”
He scoffed, “You're one to talk. You’ve practically been a different person lately.”
“I could say the same for you.”
“You couldn't really, so.” He moved to pull his arm from her grip, but she quickly moved to the step before him, putting them on the same eye level.
“I know when you're up to something, and you're up to something. What are you trying to do?”
He didn't respond, his jaw clenched.
She stood, meeting his eyes coldly, before finally dropping his wrist.
“Fine. You know what, whatever, be elusive. It doesn't matter anyway.”
“What doesn't matter?”
“You having any chance of making any sort of goddamn sense to me.”
“Because you're so easy to read.”
“For someone who prides himself on his straightforward nature, you sure jump through a lot of hoops to keep your image in order.”
He scoffed again, “I do no such thing.”
“Then what's this all about - what's with all the softness and the ‘My Violet’ nonsense meant to mess with me, and the-”
“It isn't nonsense.” He felt his skin flush with indignation. How could one single person be so perpetually frustrating?
“What else could it possibly be?”
“I-” He found he had no response. What could he do? Admit affection to his unwilling wife? She would kill him if given half a chance. He paused, unsure, meeting her incredulous look, for once retort-less.
“What other motives could you possibly have?”
And then he was on her lips, the stop to her sentence, trying to taste the question mark still curled around her teeth. He cradled her face in his hands, desperate to pull her closer, to be against her, next to her, to touch her. He was starved for her affection.
Her hands moved to his shoulders instinctively. His arms slid down, gripping her about the waist, wrapping her in a tight embrace, a vice grip, an Alexander’s knot. His kiss was frantic, but not as it had been in the past - it was a fire that he needed to put out, to pull out of his chest, lay at her feet, make known. He moved his lips to the base of her jaw, worshipping the crook of her neck. Her arms enwreathed his shoulders, holding onto him, balancing against him unsteadily. He sighed against the soft skin, feeling the strong nature of her frame against himself. They stood in the dark, balanced against one another.
“Oh.”
Her simple response was a punch in his gut. He waited for her to run, to fold out of his reach. By some miracle she stayed, didn't scurry off for once - no avoidance, no escape, just simple presence. Softly, her delicate fingers moved back to his face, tilting his lips up towards her, meeting him again in a soft, almost sorrowful, kiss.
He kissed her back, tracing every moment over in his memory. She leaned against him, all heat and fabric and skin, and he would be lying if he said he didn't become more drunk upon the sensation.
Gingerly he lifted her, holding her, enjoying the cosmic interference of gravity as she clung to his frame. She was always startlingly light. She let him move her, carrying her the few steps necessary and then placing her down on the small couch with a quality of reverence. She reclined into the seat, her legs across his lap. He took her hands in his, kissing the scarred knuckles of her fingers, working his way tenderly up her arm.
“My Violet.” He whispered between each kiss, punctuating the mark delicately, softly.
And then he was at her lips again, her kind hands resting on his collarbone. His one hand lay on her waist, his other cradling the side of her face, eager and tender in his movements. He moved back to her neck, drinking in her sigh as she circled her arms about his shoulders, holding him to her. He wanted her; he wanted all of her, the whole of her, the freely given gift of her. He wanted to be surrounded by her, taken in by her, chosen by her. He moved down her neck, glowing as she allowed his presence, offering no biting words to diffuse his adoration. He longed for her to reciprocate even an inch of his own need, but would take whatever she gave him.
She sighed as he worked his way further down, his fingers pulling at the neck of her dress, planting kisses along her sternum. She shifted her weight to his movement, meeting if not matching him.
He needed her desire, her gripping fingers to pull him in.

His fingers moved across the first button of her dress, affording him another inch of access. He placed a light kiss against her, skirting his touch against the soft skin.
“My Violet.” His voice was a hum against her. He undid another button, matching the space with another kiss.
“My Countess.”
She clutched at his shirt, the sensitive skin at the cusp of her breasts reacting readily to his touch. He moved slowly, painfully slowly. She battled her impatience, both enjoying the sensation and hating the fact that she enjoyed it. He worked with an uncharacteristic kindness - she was used to the sharp, gripping desire in his actions, and this sudden shift was unnerving. She arched slightly into his touch as he brushed against the skin above her stomach.

She pulled him closer to herself, shifting her legs up so that she was pressed into his lap, feeling the pressure of his erection against her thigh. His hand slid along her leg, directing her movement against him. He pressed a kiss to her knee. She swallowed a moan, but not enough so that he didn't hear it. Softly, he made a path of kisses along her leg, interspersing his movements with interjections of fondness, “My Dearest, My Delectable, My Violet.”
Her fingers tightened around his collar, wrinkling his shirt. Smirking, he lifted himself again, bringing his face up to kiss her on the lips. She buried herself against his neck, her breath hitching with his movements, trying to get closer, closer. She rested her head against his shoulder, a slight gasp escaping her as his hand made its way beneath her dress up her side to her waist. She pulled him tighter against herself as he rubbed his thumb against the skin of her ribs, feeling the flush of her body heat as she shifted into his pressure. Her hands wandered to his chest, pulling at the buttons of his shirt, quickly, shakily. He tried not to smile at the desperation in her movements, the unsureness at such a bold action, but he could not deny the swooning chaos of his insides at such a sharp reaction. He let her work, taking her own initiative.
He kissed at the side of her face, appreciating the slight hum she gave in reply. He leaned back softly, making a map of the flush of her cheeks, glint of her eye. She was so very very beautiful. Holding her by the small of her back, he reclined her backwards, her hands catching him behind the neck again, balancing herself within his grip. She moved her knees, allowing him to shift closer to her, the heaving of her breath pushing against his frame, catching her beneath him.
“My Violet.”
He whispered the words against the soft skin beneath her ear, delighted as she shivered, pulling him closer. Her legs moved up his sides as she held him against herself, clutching at him. And then he was at her lips again, her teeth parting in easy access as she pulled him closer, his erection rocking into her. She gasped a stiff breath, her fingers frantically unsure as she pulled at the cloth of his opened shirt. He slid his tongue behind her teeth, enamored by the vibrations of her moans as he moved his hands to her hips. She arched against him, sending him spiraling through a maze of static and stars, her fingers searching for the clasp of his belt.

He leaned back, his breath uneven.
“Violet.” She looked up, meeting his gaze with her dark eyes. He hesitated, unsure what it was that he meant to say. There was plenty to be said, but none of it fit quite right.
“No ‘my’ this time?” There was a teasing tone to her voice. He didn’t respond, watching her face, every aspect of her luminous. She raised a quizzical eyebrow. “Do you need something?” He needed her, the way he needed black coffee and strong liquor, with a desperate sort of unthinking shove. By all accounts, she was his, though he was realizing rather rapidly that in some cases, ownership wasn’t simply enough.
“Is… Do you…” He didn’t have the words. Or rather, he was completely incapable of speaking truths in any sort of tender manner. Affection was a messy subject, one best left alone. She watched his struggling silence as he sat propped up, pushed away from her with his weight balancing on the hand beside her. Her voice was a soft kindness to his struggling misery.
“Yes. I’m here.”
He was grateful for her understanding, her ability to know what he meant to say without bothering him to actually say it. Perhaps she could read him as braille after all.
She placed her hand over his, drawing him back down into a patient kiss, snaking her arm about his neck. He hesitated again. Everything was so easy when it dealt with his own concerns. Having someone else thrown into the mix muddled everything. Gently, testing her reaction, he rocked against her. She moaned into the pressure, clutching him tight so that he could not rise back up. Her hands slid across his back, holding him, buzzing with swallowed hums of contentment. He moved his hand up her thigh, pleased to note the happy sigh she gave in response, leaning into his touch.
She took his hand, making a clear directive of his touch. His fingers brushed against her. Softly she let go of his hand, her own fingers slipping to his back again, pulling him towards herself. He leaned back far enough to afford himself the space to pull at her dress, lifting it over her head. She complied readily with his movements, settling back down and then quickly gripping him by his belt loops, tugging him forward. His desire hummed victoriously inside him, following her leading touch, moving back down to kiss her deeply as his own hand wandered along her thigh, tucking beneath the fabric of her slip. She groaned at the feathery touch, arching her back, pressing against his stiff erection. He slipped his tongue into her mouth, enthralled at her open readiness as her fingers fluttered to his neck again. Softly, he slid his fingers against her, beneath the fabric, tracing light patterns against the insides of her thighs. She moaned a high-pitched needy groan, gripping at him, her lips pulling back from his ever so slightly. He hesitated again, pulling back slightly, trying again to desperately search for the words he could not find.
“Violet-”
“Yes. Yes, please, yes. I am here, yes, I am yours, I know. Just. Yes.” And then her tongue was crashing against his teeth and his heart was soaring, puncturing his lungs. He pressed his weight against her, drunk on the way she met his pressure, her lithe legs and arms surrounding him, those lovely rose lips parted against him. He growled in victorious celebration, trying to take in every aspect of the moment. Quickly, dartingly, his hand slid off the elastic of her slip, and he made his way to the thrumming warmth between her legs. She gasped, clawing at him as he slid his fingers inside her, regaining some of his bravado with her needy reaction.
“Say it again.” He pulled back, kissing at the exposed skin of her neck.
“Say what?” Her breaths were staccatoed, interspersed with gasps that he pressed from her.
“Tell me you want me.” Her face flushed.
“You can’t be that vain.”
He leaned away, smirking, glad for the reinstatement of his reliable pride. She groaned at the loss of pressure and warmth, still clutching him warily.
“Fine. I want this.” He moved back to her neck, humming his mock disapproval at her striking lack of enthusiasm before rocking himself against her, savoring the gasp she gave in reply. Her grip about his shoulders became tighter.
“I, I want this.” He pressed his fingers back inside her, relishing the way she reacted with the entirety of her body, her lips parting in a gasp as her hands scratched at his back. He moved faster against her, nipping at the skin of her neck, leaving purple tell-tale marks behind. “I, I w-” her words were becoming stutters as he moved against her, drawing her gasps quicker and quicker together. He tugged at his pants with his free hand, trying to untangle himself from the irritatingly in-the-way clothing. She cried out sharply, her hands scratching along his back, her face buried against his shoulder. “Oh hell, I want you. Please-” Her words were cut off by the gasp escaping her as he pressed his erection inside her, glowing in his victory.

His arms gripped her about her waist and lower back, holding her against himself as he smoothly slid inside her, building upon the desperate friction between them. He rocked deep within her, moaning his own pleasure against the side of her throat. She tightened her grip about his shoulders, giving over her lead and letting him move her in time to his thrusts. His hands were surprisingly gentle, more focused on fanning his touch across her skin than on actually gripping her. She moved her hand to his shoulder, pushing him up just far enough to undo the lacings of her brassiere, before taking his hand and placing it on her breast. His palm and fingers cupped her perfectly, the soothing warmth of his touch sending electric static through her bones. She pulled him back down towards herself, steering his lips towards hers, pleased with the urgency he met her with.
She rested deliciously upon the brink of orgasm, the impending pressure making sparks dance behind her eyes.
“My Violet.” His voice was a growl against her lips.
“Yes,” she moaned again at the sensation, pressing into his touch. And then her ribs and spine were glowing with the ignition of her hips, her tottering orgasm spilling down and across her body, seeping happily across her, sending flushed blood rushing to places she didn’t know blood flowed.
He kissed at her lips, her neck, her chest, his own breath becoming even more staggered with each second.
“My Violet, beautiful Violet.” She pulled him back up to her face, missing the warm pressure of him above her, him pressed against her, him holding onto her. She wrapped her arms around him, holding her face to his sternum as he encircled her in his grasp, holding her against him. He moaned his climax through gritted teeth, tightening his hold on her.

She relaxed beneath him, still clutching at his warm figure tightly. He laid down beside her, holding her. She was glowing with a comforting warmth. He rubbed at her side softly, massaging the flushed skin, admiring his handiwork of a few dark spots across her jaw and chest. It seemed somewhat ridiculous, almost teenager in nature, but he couldn’t deny the roaring satisfaction it gave him to see her so clearly sporting the effects of his attention. He continued to work his hand along her side, fed by her contented sighs, until she began to shiver in the cold, the afterglow having diffused into the cosmos. Tenderly, he lifted her, slipping his shirt over her shoulders, and then holding her close to himself, carrying her up the stairs.

Chapter Text

She was fucked. Of all the things she had planned for, him having human emotions was never an eventuality she had considered. Why did he have to ruin a good thing by going and becoming human? She stared at the ceiling, her thoughts blurring in a panic.
It was one thing to kill someone, it was another to kill them after they had all but admitted a begrudging and deep fondness, (she wouldn't think of it as anything else, anything deeper was too much to bear).
Surely killing someone after that was a worse betrayal, some sort of horrific, damnable misery only perpetrated by the worst of the worst. Could she really join such ranks?
She fought the urge to look over at him, sleeping beside her. Why did he have to decide to trust her? It made her feel sick to have been able to so easily trick him into feeling safe. She closed her eyes, feeling hopelessly lost. She would still do it. She had to.
She could do it. She would do it.

Everything would be different now. There was no way around it. Everything would change. She knew, knew of his weakness. None of his threats would ever be the same.
He wanted to turn to her, to hold her, but every act that could be construed as kindness now felt like a confession. How was he supposed to function as head of the house with her knowing of his fondness? He wouldn't think of it as anything more-that was a bridge he was not ready to cross. Damn his sentimentality. He should have killed her when he had the chance.

She didn't recall sleeping that night, but she must have dozed off fitfully at one point or another; morning came much too soon. She left the bed quietly, pulling her dress over her head in the pale dawn of the room. It was black, a funeral type of black. He would chide her for it, she knew. He always said dark colors brought out the worst of her features. She left her hair loose. Let him berate her. It would all be done soon enough.
The kitchen was still when she entered it. The sunlight creeping through the window felt irreverent, like it ought to know better than to give off light on such a day. Even the steady titter of birds outside was mocking, their slight calls altogether too loud. She crossed her arms tightly about herself, putting on the water to boil. She had precious few moments to herself, but she found herself caught in the impulse to wish them away, to wake him up by shaking him by the shoulders, demanding that he put behind the plan altogether. At the same time, she never wanted to see him again; she could not bear to look him in the eye, to feel that he had the moral upper-hand in their relationship. The thought was sickening.
She stared out the window, leaning against the counter as the water heated. She had to act natural, to keep him from becoming suspicious. Her plan was set, it would be easy enough to achieve, all she needed then was to rejoin her family. It was too late for her to finish her schooling, but she could teach herself from home. She walked out to the kitchen table, picking up her latest library book to read while she waited.

She was already gone by the time he awoke. The events of last night felt like a hazy dream that all too swiftly snapped into focus.
Maybe she didn't know; maybe there was a chance she had misread his intent as more selfishness. Although, that wouldn't necessarily be wrong--attaching himself to her was a fundamentally selfish action. All the same, there was no way she didn't know. He scowled at the thought of his wife knowing that he didn't despise her. Even worse, she knew that he was fond of her. He groaned, rubbing at his eyes. Even the faintest hint of kindness could ruin him entirely, and here he was laying it all out before her. And for what? Her affection? His stomach twisted at the thought, painful with desire. What a stupidly impractical thing to want. It could change literally no aspect of their situation for the better, could bring him no further wealth or glory, and yet, it still tugged within him. He would have to do something heinous to cover his tracks. Slowly, he pushed himself up, hanging his legs over the side of the bed. The floor was cold. He squinted towards the window, the light streaming through painfully brightly. Beleagueredly, he stood before preparing to make his way downstairs.

She had paused, taken aback for a moment by the politics of preparing a coffee for him as well. If she did, she knew he would read into it as affirmation and invitation, but if she didn't, it would be so out of the norm that it would make a noticeable statement as to her intent towards him. Finally, she had settled upon preparing his cup as well, trying to remain as inconspicuous as possible so as to not arise any suspicions. To make up for any possible misconstruing of intention, she made sure to be buried deep in her book once he arrived so as not to seem at all attentive to his presence.

He frowned as he entered the kitchen, seeing her at the table. Her hair was down. There was a cup of coffee at his seat, ready for him. His heart thrummed slightly within him. At any rate, she didn't hate him more than before. He slid into his seat without her looking up, too enthralled in her book, as usual. He leaned forward to read the cover, a startling yellow hardback done over with a sheet of protective plastic, across which was scrawled “The Awakening.” He leaned back in his seat, content to not begin the conversation. Best to leave the ball in her court, to let her react as she would so as to not further betray himself. He took a sip of his coffee.

Had it been too long since she had last turned a page? She couldn't remember, too focused on giving the illusion of indifference, and too nervous to actually read. She would wait for him to speak first, let him acknowledge the strangeness he had created, or let him wipe it away, removing it from her conscience. Either way, placating him wasn't her problem. She took another sip of her coffee, trying to keep her nerves from showing.

The awkward silence was suffocating. How was one supposed to function like this? He was right, kindness ruined everything. And yet, he couldn't help but feel jealous of the way her lips curled around the brim of her cup. He cleared his throat innocuously, hoping that once she noticed him she would say something. She didn't respond, not looking up, not shifting in posture at all. He hesitated; he had to say something, any longer in this silence and he might explode. He needed something to say that would be polite and yet reaffirm the fact that she was below him. Trying to regain his cool, he cleared his throat again.
“You really shouldn't wear black. It makes you look like a corpse.”

She paused, turning her head towards him stiffly, blinking slowly.
“Right. Good morning to you too.”
“I'm just trying to be helpful. You're already an orphan, no need to make yourself look like a widow as well.”
She didn't reply, didn't move, just stared at him with those incredulous eyes. Slowly, she reached forward, and taking his cup off the table, upturned it so that it poured out all over the floor. He froze, unsure what to say. Gently, she placed it back down again, and resuming her reading, offered no further words on the subject.
He had no fucking clue what the hell he was supposed to do now. How does one respond to that?
“Yes, well,” he stood, awkwardly taking the cup in his hand, “I'm going to get more coffee since… I seem to be… out.” She didn't reply. Self-conscious, he stood briskly to head to the kitchen before pausing abruptly. “Wait, no! No.” He placed his cup back down on the table, loudly. She looked up. “This is my house still, and you are my wife. You have made the mess, and you will get me my new coffee. Understood?” She looked up at him, expressionless, before standing and taking the cup, equally emotionless.
“Yes sir.” Her tone was flat with distaste, and it caused shivers to run across his back. He straightened his posture, watching her as she went. Shakily, once the door closed, he folded himself back into his seat, propping his head up in his hands. This was not how these things were supposed to go. He felt stiff, terrified, completely unsure of himself. The feeling nauseated him. She was, behind a doubt, the worst thing that had ever happened to him. She reappeared, sliding the cup before him silently. He tried not to look over at her, but could not fight the urge for long. She slid into her seat, meeting his gaze. He had to do something, had to say something. This couldn't go on unaddressed.
“You're really fucking annoying.”
She raised an eyebrow at his words but did not seem surprised.
“You're quite the charmer.”
“I mean. I like your face, just not the noises coming out of it. You're just. You're absurdly irritating. Just completely and bafflingly annoying. No matter where I turn, you're always right there, doing shit like distracting me from my work or throwing my coffee across the floor, and I swear, I could kill you for it.”
“Keep going, I'm swooning.” She looked away, sipping at her coffee.
“But the problem is, I don't hate you. I should hate you, but I don't, and I don't know why.” She met his eyes again, silent. “You're just…” he held his hands out, exasperated, “you're the most elusive thing I have ever encountered, and maybe I just find that aspect to be fun, that perpetual chase. But then all of a sudden you had to ruin it by making me care more about the catching than the chase and now everything is ruined and it's your fault.” He crossed his arms angrily, leaning back. She nodded softly, sagly.
“Alright. Perhaps we should try marriage counseling. You could explain to them that all you meant to do was seduce the child you tricked into marrying you, but you caught feelings instead. I'm sure you'd garner great amounts of pity.”
He held his hand up, “That is not fair. That is only half the story and you know it.”
“Does the other half make it less damnable?”
“I never claimed to not be on hell’s VIP list, all I am saying is that it was all so very simple until you had to ruin it.”
“Remind me again how I ruined your oh-so-clever plot.”
“You,” he paused, fighting for the right words, “were softer than I had anticipated.”
She blinked slowly, “So… you hate me because...?”
“No, I don't hate you, and that is the problem.” He held his hand out again, “By any logical understanding, I should hate you, immensely and totally, and you should hate me, and that's how it works, but I don't hate you because all of a sudden, you made yourself… less hateable.”
“And how did I do that?” Her tone was infuriatingly calm.
“By being clever, and sharp, and entirely unobtainable. And now it's getting in the way of my life, so I just wanted you to know that I hate you for that.”
“But you don't hate me?”
“No.” She nodded.
“Alright.” Once again, her tone was so calm he could have screamed.
“Alright? That's all you have to say?”
She shrugged, “You like your wife. Don't worry, I won't tell anyone.”
His insides were burning, combustious fires that ruptured throughout him.
“That's it? You don't care at all?”
She betrayed the first hint that she might be unnerved by the situation, looking up hesitantly as she tried to formulate her thoughts.
“I… don't think that things will necessarily be changed by that.”
“How can you say that like you haven't just ruined everything?”
“Okay, first of all, that is hardly my fault. You yourself admit that I do just about everything I can to drive you mad. If you're into that, it is not my problem. Secondly, I don't know, I just…” she shrugged, “I guess I never understood you in the first place, so this is just something else that I don't understand and can't change.”
“But you don't-”
“No.” She shook her head slowly. “I couldn't.”
He looked down into his cup, quiet. There were a few moments of heavy silence between them.
“I don't know whether to kiss you for the coffee or punish you for the impudence.”
“Shouldn't have called me a spinster.” She took a sip from her own cup. He smirked , watching her.
“Someday I will learn to stop underestimating you.” He held out his cup in a toast.
“Good luck.” She clinked her cup against his, the thin sound ricocheting across the room.

Chapter Text

She felt like a shadow that day. She tried not to follow him around, to stay as far from him as possible, but he felt like a page curling up in flames, and she needed to gather as much information as she could before she lost the chance permanently. She would never be able to understand him, but it felt irreverent to not give it one last try. She tried to stay casual, not not let him catch on. It felt strange, realizing that after all these years, she still had no idea what it was that he did throughout his day. There was a surprising amount of reading involved. Never books, of course, but plenty of papers and documents. She had always assumed he just kept them around for show. He didn’t notice her, too immersed in his own world of whatever the hell it was that he was doing.

Why the hell was she following him? He tried not to notice, but every time he stood up to leave a room, she was right there. He polished off his first bottle of wine a lot earlier than usual, somewhat distraught at her unusual behavior. She was trying very hard to be inconspicuous. How could she still think after all this time that there would ever be an instant where he was not thinking about her? He just wanted to go about his damn work, and there she was, all over-the-shoulder glances and prolonged stares when she thought he was reading. Finally, his skin crawling under her gaze, he looked up at her.
“What the hell are you doing?”
She startled, putting on a look of innocence, “Pardon?”
“You’ve been following me all morning. What are you doing?”
“I’m not following you. Are you sure you haven’t been following me?”
“What kind of question is that? Of course I’m-” he cut off abruptly, his words curling into a smile. “Ohh, I see what’s happening.”

She stared at him, uncertain, “Excuse me?”
He strode over to her, smirking down at her condescendingly, “It’s alright, you can admit to it. Quite frankly, I’m surprised I didn’t see it sooner, it really does explain a lot.”
“What are you talking about?” Her gut rolled within her anxiously.
“You’re worried about tonight.” She stared at him, unsure how to respond. Technically he wasn’t wrong. He patted her on the head patronizingly. “You’re trying to follow me around to get into character, my little aspiring actress.” His voice had a croon to it. “Don’t worry your pretty little mind, you’ll do just fine. Setting fires is a lot easier than one might expect. If anything, you should be worried that you may find the action all too seductive.” She clenched her jaw.
“I don’t-”
“You’ll do just wonderfully. And if you don’t, that’s what I’m there for. Don’t worry, I won’t tell the troop if you fuck it all up.” He smiled down at her very much like a snake might smile down upon a mouse he was about to eat. She swallowed hard.
“Yes, well,”
“You’ll see. There’s something incredibly intoxicating about it all. Something, dare I say,” he pulled her to himself, holding her hand out as though to tango, “erotic.”
“Yes, well, alright then.” She ducked out of his grasp, feeling sirens cascade through her mind. “Thank you for, that. I feel a lot better and have things I need to do.” She turned to spin out of his reach, but he caught her arm first, pulling her up into a kiss. She stiffened, feeling the need to escape. Gently, he released her, still smiling condescendingly.
“Alright, back to your work. Don’t worry; I’m sure you’ll be a natural.”
She could have thrown up, but instead she scurried off, trying not to trip over her plummeting insides.

He smiled, taking another sip of his wine.
“My flighty wife,” he whispered to himself, good-humoredly. Who knows, maybe this would be the final act that would bring them together once and for all. He of all people knew the power of fire to change a person. Yes, there was no way she would be the same after all of this. He reclined back into his seat, feeling satisfied with himself. He was so good at reading her. It was a shame she was so resistant to the idea of his affection. No matter, she would come around eventually. He took a long drink of his wine. It had taken four years, but he had managed this so far. She would bend, all in time. No, not bend, she would learn to match his affection through her own desire. He wouldn’t have to capture her, she would hand herself over to him. It would happen, he would just need some more patience.
He could wait. He would wait.

Chapter Text

She sat in her inventing room, unable to focus on anything other than the tangle in her throat. She held her siblings’ letters in her hands, feeling the signatures with the pads of her fingers, allowing herself to feel the pain that seared through her with each one, watching Sunny’s signature change from a scrawled shape to carefully traced letters. This would be the hardest part--the before. She imagined it would be like pulling a tooth; once she pushed through the horrific pain, she would be able to move along and begin to heal.
She folded the letters back into a neat pile, staring at them, realizing suddenly that at some point she would have to pack, decide what she was going to bring with her. She glanced about the room emptily. The only other thing she cared for was the garden, and she couldn’t take that with her. She pulled her ribbon from her hair, resigned to complete ineffectiveness for the rest of the day. She was too turbulent to achieve anything.
She didn’t want to begin following him again, but she felt desperately lonely. She walked out of the room quietly, searching him out. She found him exactly where she had left him, in his chair in the entrance parlor. She walked up behind him, peering over his shoulder.
“Are you spying on me again?”
She paused, surprised he had known she was there, “No. I mean, I mean no, I-”
“Calm down, I don’t care.” There was a smile in his tone. She hesitated then walked around the chair quietly, still looking at the papers in his hand.
“What are those?”
“Papers.” His tone was distracted.
“Yes, but about what? What are you always working on?”
He looked up at her, “Why the sudden interest?”
She shrugged, feigning indifference, “You’re always working on something, I figured it was about time I learned what.”

He raised his eyebrow but managed to avoid the nagging glee from overspilling his countenance. Gingerly, he shifted over, gesturing towards the arm of the chair. She perched upon it, balancing her weight with her arm across the back. He held the papers up, gesturing to to the one on top.
“How much of this makes sense to you?”

She glanced across it. It was similar to the letter he had given her for the Quagmires. It seemed to say a lot, but at the same time, everything it said seemed like nonsense. She hesitated.
“I mean, I understand all the sentences separately, but together they doesn’t seem to have much coherence.” He nodded slowly, watching her expression.
“That’s because you don’t know how to read it.”
She paused, taken aback, “Did you just accuse me of being unable to read?”
“No, look, it’s like this,” he placed the paper down, holding his hands in front of him as if to grasp an invisible box, “almost everything you encounter has been encoded in some way. You can know it has meaning, but that doesn’t change the fact that you are unable to garner that meaning unless you have the key to understanding.”
“So those papers, they’re all… in code?”
“For the most part, yes. Not all the same code, but they all have coded aspects.”
She lifted the papers hesitantly, waiting to see if he would rebuke her, but when he didn’t react she continued, sifting through them.
“This one is a play.” She lowered the papers to meet his eyes.
He smirked at her, something close to pride in his gaze, “Correct.”
“So…” she paused, calculating, “all of those plays-”
“I knew you were dangerously clever.” He took the papers back from her, a conspiratory contentment in his voice.
“So you’re… not an actor?”
He scoffed, taken aback, “Well don’t take it that far. I’m still a handsome and talented thespian. Just because it happens to be a convenient method of information sharing doesn't change that.”
“Why are you telling me this now?” She felt nervous, no, not nervous, terrified. How could she know him for four years and only be gaining this information now? He shrugged, indifferent to her internal panic.
“How was I supposed to trust you? It’s more convenient for me if you to find out information in the least helpful order possible. It keeps my skills relevant.”
“Then why tell me at all?” He paused, thinking.
“I’ve made the executive decision to trust you with this particular bit of information. Don’t flatter yourself, there are still libraries worths of information you don’t have yet, but I am giving you this bit-”

“As a gesture of goodwill, I know.” She had lifted the papers up again and was skimming them, trying to make head or tail of it. He nodded, reclining back, watching her expression. Her eyes were black holes as they darted across the paper rapidly, trying to soak it all in. Silly girl, had she really not realized before now that he wasn’t a complete imbecile? Even after all this, she still underestimated him. He smirked to himself, somewhat amused by that. No matter, she would come to recognize his genius in time.
“So you can read this?” She held the paper up, incredulous. He cocked his eyebrow.
“Are you asking me now if I can read?”
Her expression fell in annoyed disbelief, “You know what I mean.”
“Yes, I can read that.”
“Then what does it say?”
“It says ‘Be careful, your wife is short and nosey.’” She glared at him.
“There’s no need to be an ass.”
“It also says to watch you language,” he trailed his finger across a random line, “or else your husband might cut out your tongue.”
“Empty threats.” He resented her cool tone.
“Are you sure? It says it right there.” He gestured at the paper again.
“You wouldn’t cut out my tongue, you’re much too fond of it.” He cocked his head to the side, nodding, yielding the point with a shrug.
“Oh my god, I meant talking, you heinous man!” She shoved him roughly. He straightened up again, snatching the papers back from her.
“A freudian slip, perhaps.”
“That is not how freudian slips work.”
“Are you certain?”
“I am positive.”
“Why don’t we take a look at yours, just to be sure.” He grabbed her, a lilting smile in his voice. She shoved him again, knocking herself to the floor in the process. She stood up with a huff.

“You absolute bastard.”
He clicked his tongue, “Language. And here we are, come full circle. Care to join me for another round? See what comes up this time?”
She lifted her hands to the sides of her face, tremendously agitated but unable to formulate a string of words biting enough.
“So when were you planning on telling me about all of this?”
He raised his eyebrow, “Pardon?”
“The coded letters, when were you going to tell me?”
“Oh,” he looked down to the papers, “are we back on these now?”
“Yes we’re ‘back on those now!’” She gestured towards them, exasperated.
He shrugged, “Quite frankly, I wasn’t going to.”
“You weren’t WHAT?”
“I didn’t consider it information you needed.”
“So why tell me at all?”
“Well, you asked.”
“What else is information I, quote unquote, ‘don’t need’?”
He shrugged again, obviously bewildered, “I don’t know, the finer points of microeconomics? Literally any one of those stories you insist upon reading? How to change a tire? Listen, I don’t know what information will become relevant in your life.”
“And let me guess, it’s all relevant to yours?”
“Well yes, otherwise I wouldn’t have it.”
“And me marrying you doesn’t entitle me to that?”
He scoffed, “First of all, I married you, let’s get that straight. Second of all, no, not at all.”
She threw up her hands, “Fine. You know what? Whatever. You keep your damn secrets and see if I care.” She turned to leave but then pivoted back to face him, “This has been a tremendous waste of time.”
He didn’t look up, re-immersed in his papers, but raised a single hand to wave goodbye, “Alright, well then, see you again in ten minutes when you get bored of not spying on me.”
She didn’t reply, too busy stalking off in an angry huff.

Chapter Text

She worked in the kitchen frantically, trying to channel all of her nerves into the act of scrubbing the cookware. It was a pointless action really, and she would have felt much better throwing them against the wall, but still she worked diligently, hoping for a reprieve in thinking.
All of a sudden her plan didn't seem like such a great idea. She'd effectively burned the bridge with the Quagmires- no. She… had discontinued the relationship. In any case, she was unable to turn to them for help. He was the only one who had the ability to help her solve the mysteries plaguing her. And yet, she would once again have to buy them at the price of her freedom. She paused, looking out the window, feeling entirely trapped. Was it more important to keep her family together or to find out about the mysteries that had separated them in the first place? She had promised her parents to protect her siblings, but how could they expect her to protect them from their own legacy? She felt sick, dreadfully confused, and horribly lost. This was too much to have been put on her, and she wanted nothing more than to shrink away, to escape. And yet, she couldn't afford to- that was the only option that led nowhere. She braced her hands against the counter, staring out the window.
It felt strange to think about leaving the house. It had never been much of a home, but still, she had to admit a fondness for it. She knew it at least--it was perhaps the only constant she had. She ran her fingers across the wood of the nearby drawers. She could build a new house, a brand new one, never lived in, with an expansive library, and a large, sun-lit kitchen. She would have plenty of tabletops for stacks of books and piles of gears and contraptions and-
She stopped, opening her eyes, pulling herself from her daydream. All there was between her and her desires was a little fire, a little murder, a little treachery, she thought bitterly. And what of the Quagmires? They already had their beautiful life, beautiful home, beautiful library. And she was willing to sacrifice it all for her own gains. “Just as they did with me,” she thought, staring out into the yard. She was settled, she couldn’t go back now. She could do it. She would do it.
She lifted the knife, wiping the blade and beginning her work on the vegetables, cutting in slow, deliberate strokes. She was so close, she just needed to stay distant enough to finish the homestretch. She could do it. She would do it.

Perhaps he had been unfair. She hadn’t the benefit of being taught the finer aspects of espionage and treachery from a young age. If all went well, maybe it wasn’t too late. If she proved she could do this, that she was capable of seeing this out to the end, then she could be an invaluable asset. He caught himself feeling excitement at the notion--to have her as both wife and pupil. She was a smart girl, she would catch on easily. True, she was ineffably stubborn, but she wasn’t immune to change, and once indoctrinated, she would become a formidable member. He stroked his jaw, thinking. Yes, she would make a phenomenal asset, but first she needed to prove her reliability. Not to him, of course, he knew she could go through with it, but to the others. They needed reason to trust her, and this was an incredible opportunity to prove her abilities. He smiled, taking a sip from his wine bottle.

She walked through the door, wiping her hands on the towel pinned to her waist. “Dinner’s prepared, if you’re interested.” He walked through the door past her, pausing to tuck a stray hair behind her ear. She flushed, still surprised by his softness at times. “Where’s the cabernet?”
“Third cabinet from the left.” He found the bottle quickly, turning again to exit into the dining room without so much as a thank you. That was more comfortably typical of him.
She didn’t want to eat with him, but would have no excuse not to, still trying not to arouse his suspicions. Quietly, she found her spot at the table, trying not to look at him too much. This was it, her last chance to dissuade him from his plan, her last chance to redeem herself by inaction. She said nothing, did nothing, feeling her decision ring within her as a crypt bell.

She wasn’t eating, obviously too worried about her performance tonight. This first one would be the hardest--after this she would learn to think of it less and less, and then not at all. Unless, of course, she learned to like it, in which case arson might provide a wonderful couple’s bonding activity. Just another way it would help him. He stretched his hand out, touching hers. She jumped, startled out of her thoughts.
“If you don’t eat, you’ll wither away altogether, making yourself even less helpful.” She pulled her hand back sharply, scowling at his words. He laughed. “What a temper you have there. Learn to keep it in check, it’ll make it a lot more effective.”
“Is that what you do?” Her tone was biting.
He smiled, “You have no idea.” She looked away, obviously uneasy at his words. For some reason he didn’t seem able to resist tormenting her--no matter what he tried to say, it always came out venomous. No matter, no need for her to get too comfortable, he thought, and yet still his insides clenched anxiously. What was he supposed to do? Feign kindness? That would only leave her horribly disappointed in the long-run. She pushed at the food on her plate, once more preoccupied within her own head. What went on in there? He could never tell.

This was her last chance to have a conversation with him before she would initiate her plan to… well, her plan to escape. His cold silence made her more at ease with the idea, made it less difficult to dissociate herself from the play that was about to be acted out, and yet she felt like a jailer denying a dead man his last words. She tried to think of what she could possibly ask him--tried to imagine what words would be able to bring this all to a satisfying conclusion. There were none. There was nothing she could say, nothing she could do that would make this right.

She looked so distressed. She was a terrible actress--always wearing her heart on her sleeve. While that was convenient for him, it may pose a problem in the future. For a glimmer of a second, he almost felt guilty; wanted to take her by the hands, tell her she didn’t have to go through with it, that all would be forgiven, but it was much too late now. If she was unable to at least make the attempt, there’d be no way she’d ever find a place within the organization. True, she hadn’t one now, but what else could he do? Cover for her? That would only last so long--he needed to keep her under his watch, under his protection, and the best way to do that was to let her experience all the stress and fear and relief firsthand. Still, he felt the urge to comfort her, and so began to reach for her hand again before hesitating, realizing he had nothing to say. What could he possibly tell her to make it any better?

She glanced over at him feeling his gaze. He smiled in a patronizing way.
“I’m sure you’ll make a fine arsonist.” Her heart plummeted, shattering about her feet.

Chapter Text

The road rolled beneath the car accusingly, making her feel every bump and crevice in the road as another missed opportunity to stop his plan, to stop her plan, to stop everything, run away, live in the woods by herself where nothing could ever get to her again. The only thing that prevented that was her family, and her promise to protect them. Though as the minutes ticked past, she felt more and more unable to fulfill said promise. “It’s easy,” he had told her, “Nothing to it at all.” If only he knew the treachery he provoked with his words. Would he then try to kill her in return? She felt he might actually be proud of her plan, if a bit miffed at the fact that it was directed at him. She was finally becoming what he had always hoped.
They parked the car in some shady alleyway, a mile or so off from the house. She looked up at him, not speaking. He opened the door, beckoning her to follow behind him into a errily unclean bar. She took his arm without thinking, wanting his daunting presence to make her feel safe, or at least safer. None of the patrons paid them mind as they slipped through, making her feel somewhat ridiculous in the way she clung to him, but her closeness had the added benefit of feeding his ego so that he didn’t notice her hand slipping into the pocket of his coat, pickpocketing the keys. Her head was rushed with blood. It was here, it had begun. He approached the bar with her trailing after him. A gruff looking man, wiping a glass clean in his hand, came up at the other side to meet them.
“What will it be?”
“A dry martini for the lady, sugar on the rim.”
The man nodded, his expression unchanging, “Right this way.”
He led them into the back, out of the sight of the other patrons, before opening a small door which appeared to lead to the basement. Olaf nodded to him.
“Much obliged.” Smirking, he turned to glance at Violet. “Ladies first?”
“I think I’ll let you take this one.” Her voice was a whisper. He nodded, looking back down the stairs.
“Fair enough. Stay close.”
The stairs deposited them about twenty feet down, unfurling into a narrow tunnel. A short set of stairs seemed to lead straight into the ceiling. He pulled open a swinging door on the ceiling. Of course there was a secret passage within the secret passage. Before them were a series of tunnels, dimly lit with interspersed buzzing electric lights, place just barely close enough to keep visitors guessing what may lie fifty feet ahead. She didn’t release his arm, grateful for his presence, and horrified at the prospect of walking this tunnel alone. He started forward.
She had no idea how long they walked for--it could have been minutes, it could have been ages. Her only sense of time came from the metranohm of her pounding heartbeat rattling in her ears. She was certain he must be able to feel it. Still, he said nothing. Eventually, the tunnel ended in a second staircase, an identical bookend to the first. He disengaged her from his arm, climbing up the stairs slowly. Gently, he pushed up a trapdoor, opening into more darkness. She stared up, sure she was looking at a starless sky, and then the smell of dampness hit her, wafting down gently.
She climbed up the stairs, taking his hand for support at the end, looking about the cellar they had arrived in. It was dark, pitch black, the only light coming from the top of the stairs in front of them, creeping under the door. He didn’t look back, or, if he did she couldn’t tell. At any rate, he began to ascend the stairs, with her trailing closely behind.

The house looked so much larger in the night, so much more grandiose, like it was leering down upon them, disappointed in her. She felt her heart thrum in her throat. She could do it. She would do it. He was speaking but she had no idea what he was saying. Roughly, he elbowed her, trying to gain her attention.
“Yes, of course, sorry.” She rubbed at the spot he had bumped her. He looked down at her exasperatedly.
“I was asking you if you were having second thoughts.”
“Oh, then I mean no, no I’m fine.”
He hummed a note in disbelief but did not press her any further. She looked around at the interior of the mansion. There was so much glass to it. So much wood. He snapped softly, bringing her attention back to him again, sharply.
“I said, where’s the library?”
She felt her blank stare, her emotions rushing out of her, like rats abandoning the sinking ship. “Towards the back, this way.” He followed close behind her, never more than a few inches away. Her bones turned to ice. She was steel now. She could do it. She would do it. Quietly, she pulled open the doors, once again greeted by the welcoming scent of all the books. She almost felt worse for that part of it, as if out of all the betrayals she was about to undertake, the burning of books was the worst of it. She strode over to the table, moving to shift the tabletop up.

“Help me lift this.” He strode over, unimpressed at such a disastrous hiding place. As he had suspected, the sublibrary was protected by a vernacularly fastened door. He watched as she punched in the codes, feeling his excitement mount with every click. With a groaning sigh, the safe swung open, revealing a wealth of information. He smiled, gleeful, before turning to grab her, kissing her heartily. Greedily, he grabbed at everything he could, trying to build a stack of all the papers in there.
“Hang on, we can’t possibly carry all of this.”
“Whatever we don’t carry is lost.” He looked over at her. She did have a point though; there seemed to be an awful lot, and he would hate to leave something important behind. “Here,” he skimmed through the papers quickly, handing her a few roughly. “Take anything that seems like a list. We'll need those.”
She glanced over at the papers in her hands, clearly not comprehending what they said. He should have taught her how to read them. No matter, he would make it work. He shoved more papers at her. “Here, take these.” She took them from his hands, adjusting them into a pile.
“So it’s… good?”
He stared down at the loose papers in his hands, skimming over them, “You have no idea.”
“Well you know this isn’t all of it, right?”
He looked up at her, startled. “Pardon?”
She hesitated, gesturing over her shoulder. “There’s more, a second safe that they’ve kept secret.”
He could feel his face glowing, beaming with pride, “Why you little minx! I knew you were a natural. Where did they hide it?” He glanced around the room, trying to pinpoint the second hiding spot.
“It’s not in the library.”
He frowned, “Not in the library? What do you mean ‘not in the library?’ These idiots hide everything in their infernal libraries.”
“It’s hidden, back where we came.”
“Alright, I’m following you.” They gathered up the papers and then headed out, snaking through the hallways once more. He knew she’d be a prodigy--she took to crime like a fish did to swimming.
She walked down the hallways, towards the back rooms, him following close behind. The stairs were situated near the entrance parlor; the meant the bedrooms would probably rest on the south side of the house, further away. Hesitantly, she opened the door to a room a hallway off from where they had began, gesturing him in. He practically ran in, eager, but stopped short when he realized he was standing in a pantry.
“Where is it?” He turned to look at her, his clever wife, but then there was a crack against his temple and the taste of blood.

Chapter Text

She stood, shaking, the table lamp in her hand. She looked down at him, terrified. He wasn’t dead, but he was unconscious for now, and would no doubt wake with a fury in due time. She gathered the papers scattered about him, trying not to vomit, but at the sight of the blood across his temple she turned quickly and retched. Hot tears that she didn’t remember crying poured across her face, stinging her skin. She wiped her eyes roughly with the back of her hand. There was no time for that now. Scurrying back to work quickly, she clutched the crumpled papers in her hands, heading towards the cellar. She fumbled about in the dark, searching for the hidden trapdoor. Finally she found it, anxiously pulling it open, looking down into the looming dark. She turned back towards the stairs, back towards the house. She shoved down her susceptible heart, reminding herself that she was made of ice, she was made of stone. She poured out the bottle of flammable fluid he had prepared across the wooden stairs, watching it dribble down like a waterfall. Shaking, she pulled the pack of matches from her pocket, trying to ignite them across the side of the box. Her hand slipped, her vision blurred by her tears, snapping the match in half. She cursed, throwing it to the side, trying again. This one lit easily, but singed her fingertips, causing her to toss it behind her, making it go out. She wiped at her eyes angrily before trying a third time. This one took to the the flame easily, and she held it up, staring at it.
He was wrong. There was nothing gleeful in the flame, nothing beautiful. It stood across from her, sentinel. A quick flick of the wrist and she would be absolved of her past, cleansed by fire, going up with the smoke.

She could do it. She would do it.

Coldly, she tossed it up towards the stairs, grabbing the papers off the ground and ducking quickly into the tunnel, shutting the door behind her.

The echoes of her footsteps carried her through the passageway as she ran, not looking back. It was done. She had done her job; nothing more, and nothing less. It was time to leave here now; it was time for the next part to begin.