"If the assassinationCould trammel up the consequence, and catchWith his surcease success; that but this blowMight be the be-all and the end-all here,But here, upon this bank and shoal of time,We'ld jump the life to come."Kate wanted nothing more than to join Vittorio in sleep. The bed looked comfortable enough to support an entire family, should it be required, and -Well. That was irony, if you liked.That was a conversation she /wasn’t/ looking forward to.Results, results, penance and how the /hell/ had she ever thought she would get away with this? Guido had trusted her because he had thought he knew her.And now he would think he knew her on a completely different level, and in a completely different way, because how was she ever going to make him see that this hadn’t been meant as a betrayal? He was probably never going to forgive her, this time, no matter what he had promised in the past.Gritting her teeth, she resolutely didn’t think of the other factor in the forthcoming equation, which was Hal’s reaction to her now very badly-concealed secret.She wondered which of them Trevelyan would hold most to blame.*Hal came in to relieve Guido after a few hours, looking as though he had been dragged through several hedges both backwards and on his face.“Gardens,” said the Conte dryly, “ do not agree with your constitution, Trevelyan mine.”“Er?” Hal looked, briefly, confused, before reaching up to his hair and removing a few bits of twig. Ignoring Guido’s sigh, he dropped them on the floor. “Oh. Rosebushes.”Guido refrained from enquiring further.“How -” Hal gestured at the bed, and Guido shrugged, stretching.“Nothing,” he said. “I’ve tried threats, blandishments, and outright honesty, but I’m not getting a flicker. The most that can be said is he’s breathing, and sometimes I’m doubting the evidence of my own eyes as to that much being true.”“Pitt’s doctor -”“Yes, yes, Pitt’s doctor. Not that he’s renowned for miracle cures, is he? But we may be overlooking something obvious…”Hal shrugged. “Well, so will he, then,” he said unhelpfully.“Hal…”“All right, yes. Better than nothing. But /still/.”“Can I be allowed to clutch at straws in peace, please?” Guido asked plaintively. “I know he’s got as much skill as the rest of his wretched profession, but if I do not hold out some hope, then - God, I cannot forever be reliant upon my own knowledge and no more!”Hal quirked his eyebrows together. “No?” he asked. “And how is it you’re suddenly mistrusting yourself?”“Because I don’t,” Guido said flatly, and left it at that. “Look, I need to go and see to - well. Upstairs. Give me a shout when the cavalry arrives, will you?”“Oh, God.” Hal’s groan was heartfelt. “You want me to stay /here/?”Guido’s mouth twitched. “Preferable though Timbuktu may seem…” he began, and Hal raised his hands in defeat.“All right, all right, you have other worries, but damn it…”“Thank you,” Guido said, and got up to leave.“I’m not being honest with him!” Hal yelled after his retreating back, and was rewarded by a choked-off yelp of amusement.He sat down in the vacated chair, and picked up the sheaf of papers on the nearby table.“Oh, the fun and pleasure,” he said in his brightest tones. “Today, Mr Kennedy, I shall explain to you in agonising detail how the state of the lead piping on the outside of the Admiralty will affect the nation’s wartime strategy…who /writes/ these damned things, anyway?”*“You didn’t tell me.” Guido had, of course, arrived completely silently, and was standing in front of Kate before she had even fully registered that the bedroom door had opened to admit him. “Why?”“It -” Kate sighed. “I didn’t think it would be appropriate.”“That I - that we - damn it, Kate! How could it not be appropriate for me to know about /this/?” Guido’s voice had not raised, but the sibilance in it made it clear how truly angry he was.Kate struggled for calm. “It was a transaction, Guido,” she said coolly. “I didn’t want to deal with the consequences, and I saw no reason for you to, either.”“You thought I wouldn’t take responsibility?”“No.” Kate sighed. “No, that was the problem. I knew you would. I knew you’d be honourable, and foolish, and throw both our lives away because you don’t know any other way to be. And /I/ made the decision that it wasn’t going to happen that way.”“It wasn’t yours to make!”“Yes!” Kate sprang out of her chair, and faced him squarely, not caring now if her voice carried. “Yes, actually, it was! You’d /vanished/, remember? Taken an assumed name and vanished into France, and it’s not as if you have the best record of remembering things, even if I’d known you’d come back! I made the only decision I could, and you know it!”“But when I came back…you could have told me…”Kate shook her head. “How could I have known you would admit paternity? I wasn’t in a position to claim certainty - and nor were you. It’s obvious now whose son he is….but it might not have been. I knew - but how could I prove it? And Guido. I don’t love you. I never did. I never could, not enough to wreck three lives for the sake of convention and your damned idea of the right thing. I did what I had to, and you don’t have the right to stand here and judge.”“That I do not,” Guido agreed mildly. “But when my child is used as a bargaining chip in a game I knew nothing of until tonight, then I most certainly have the right to /ask/!”And to that, there was no response. Because whatever the morality of what she had tried to do might have been, whatever her motives may have been at the beginning, the fact remained that they were both, now, in a completely untenable position, and Guido’s unassailable fortress within the intelligence service had been compromised.“I know,” she said wearily. “But there’s no good answer. I thought I was doing the right thing. And it’s been -”“A disaster?” Guido smiled rather grimly. “Not yet. For him - perhaps. But then, I cannot put him first. You knew that when you sent him away and elected not to tell me. You /will not/ put him first, and that disturbs me.”“I can’t afford to.” Kate swallowed. “I couldn’t afford to start feeling - and tonight, I sat here, and - I care. I care because he’s a child, and vulnerable, and is involved in something that he should never have been aware of, but - I don’t feel those things I’m told I should. Guido….I never did. He was an error - maybe on both our parts, if you want to share responsibility - but - an error nonetheless. And I can’t, I can’t. I can’t feel what you think I should.”Guido sat down in one of the chairs, looking as bone-weary as Kate felt.“And I do,” he said. “So where does that leave us, Katerina?”“Where we were before,” Kate said simply. “But now…you have another one to worry you. I am so sorry, Guido. This is what I wanted to protect you from….”“To every action, a reaction,” Guido said, apparently to the floor. “Jesus. All I wanted was a week in which to lose myself. This seems a remarkably high price to pay.”“Poor Guido.” Kate’s smile was mocking. “Always the sin-eater.”“Always the realist, you mean.” Guido’s expression was harsh as he looked back up at her. “I can’t forgive this, Kate. I won’t. I understand…but I can’t forgive. You’ve given me something I can’t have, and took it away from me for longer than should have been.”Kate blinked away stinging tears. “And…my job?”“As an assassin?” Guido’s smile was mirthless. “Why on earth would I dismiss someone in whom I invested all this time? Just - protect him, for now. And please. Please. Keep away from me for as long as you can. Because at this moment, I am - uncertain in my feelings, save for one thing.” His expression changed into what was nothing like a smile, his white teeth slightly bared. “I would - very much - like - to kill you.”*Hal was vocal in all things, Edrington reflected, but outrage must surely be top of the list. His stream of profanity brought an ashen-looking Guido (and God alone knew what had put /that/ look on the Conte’s face, because Hal’s vocabulary surely wasn‘t the cause) catapulting down from his rooms, had Elizabeth peering out of the general study, himself at the top of the stairs that led to the workshop, and one Dr. Addington, father of the country’s Premier and renowned physician, stumbling backwards into the hallway.Pitt, being Pitt, was of course simply standing to one side and looking on with a kind of detached amusement that suggested he had no intention of interfering one way or the other. Sometimes, Edrington wondered if there were any truth to the rumours that the man’s veins ran with ice-water. Other times, he simply thought that yes, they did, but tinged with the faintest hint of pure acid.“/Hal/!” Guido’s voice cut through the profanity-embellished listing of Dr Addington’s perceived parentage and medical skills like a particularly razor-edged knife, and even Pitt flinched backwards a little. “What in the name of /God/ do you think you are -”“This /bastard/,” Hal yelled back at the top of his lungs, “thinks that perhaps a little modern medicine is in order!”“And so it may well be!” Guido retorted. “I see no reason for -”“For ‘putting the poor devil out of his misery and leaving him to the hands of God’?” Hal demanded. “Yes, I’m rather at a loss on that score myself!”“/Really/?” Guido’s tone of mild interest was completely at odds with the sudden vault he took over the banisters, to land crouched in front of the unfortunate doctor like a particularly homicidal-looking cat. “My, my. And what area of expertise were you calling upon this time, Addington? Grave robbing?”*Bush was reading....something long, and dull, and that he kept stumbling over - to Archie.The Academics were raiding the library for books on medical procedures.Hal and Kate were having a conversation that should have been private, and was almost certainly not.Guido and Pitt were having a less personal, but equally confrontational, discussion in Guido's private study.Edrington and Elizabeth were in Guido's workshop, realising that the spy commander had in fact constructed some kind of pipe work that made all rooms audible to him from there."I think I'm in hell..." Elizabeth murmured."I think Guido is," Edrington replied seriously, dismissing her wryness as inappropriate. "Pitt's never lost an argument yet.""Uncle William is suggesting that he hand Mr. Kennedy back to the authorities," Elizabeth pointed out. "Pity the poor politician who used to do persuasion for a living...""Considering his choice in doctor," Edrington said, "I find I can't."Elizabeth grimaced. "There is that..."There was, indeed, that. Guido and Hal might have been (in fact, almost indisputably /were/) headed for the sort of rift that was going to make the Ice Age look like a prehistoric picnic - and Edringotn was certainly not looking forward to that point - but they were also a quite phenomenal force when allied against a principle - or the unfortunate person who tried to adhere to it.It had made Edrington realise how often the two took, not quite opposing, but balancing views to one another - whether out of habit or practise or simple pragmatism he was unsure. The last time they had been so united, he had been facing Guido's pistol as a result.This time, Hal had literally kicked Dr. Addington out of the house.No-one had objected, particularly, even Pitt, who was now waiting for his carriage to return for him, and using the time to try and reassert himself over the Conte.He was failing miserably."Guido. Please. You must /listen/ -""I will /not/!" Guido sounded as though he were having his throat scraped out with every word he spoke, his normal deep tones ragged and harsh. "No. No. Not for anything. Not for the world. Not for peace on a platter and Bonaparte's head as a garnish, Pitt, /no/.""The man is a confessed -""Must I state in open court that I know this to be untrue? For I will.""You have no /proof/! The one thing I asked you - showed you that it must be, and you have not -""Yet. I have not /yet/. You must give me time.""And if I cannot?""Then I will take Mr Kennedy, and my undeniable skills, elsewhere. Somewhere where my choices are not debated. Somewhere that /right/ is not a theory. I will go back to my palazzo, and I will /never/ work for this country again, is that understood?""Are you threatening -""I am /telling/. I will not put this aside for the greater good. Not this time. I have done this too often, I have denied too much for the sake of what you have told me /must be/, and I tell you now. Not this time."Not many people could override Pitt, but Guido was doing so, not with force of volume, but with the sheer unstoppability of what he was saying. Any arguments against him, valid or not, were simply not going to be considered, and Edrington wondered when Pitt would realise the underlying gist of what the Conte was telling him.Guido was prepared to die, this time, in defence of his own morality. They had all known, of course, that it would some day come to this, but in the past, Edrington thought, it would have been over a principle - something that could be held off, deferred. But Guido was right. //Not this time.//The reason lay, silent and perhaps dying, in his house, and there was a fact to be dealt with, for once, and no theory or ideal, no concept to be twisted to Pitt and the country's ends.Guido would listen to what others considered to be reason, nine-hundred and ninety times. But the thousandth time was a man he considered a friend, and from this he would never turn back, or away, never subsume his own beliefs to anything, however needful or plausible.And Edrington was very much afraid that if he did not convince Pitt, he was going to damn all those who knew of Kennedy's survival along with him.Hal's voice was edging into a stutter, now, over-riding Guido's deadly calm down the echoing pipes."Is there n-nothing he won't take? Nothing? C-can't I have one g-good thing that he hasn't t-taken first and corrupted?"The crack of Kate's hand was even louder than his voice, and Edrington winced."Fuck you, Hal," she said venomously. "Or, wait, no. Why don't I refuse, and save us both the effort? You were saving yourself, were you? You're faithful? Please. Do me a favour and pretend we're adults. You never pretended to love me, and the only difference between you and Guido is that he paid me for my time and gave me a second chance. You don't seem capable of either.""You want money?" Hal yelled. "Christ, I've g-got money, more than he'll ever -""Shut - your - mouth, Trevelyan! You know nothing! You weren't there, you couldn't get past your own fears long enough to be there, you -""Now who knows nothing -""You think I was a whore, Hal? Maybe. Maybe to people like you. To Guido? I was sanctuary, and - oh, that made you stop, didn't it, you heard that one! - Sanctuary, Hal, sanctuary, because they'd asked him to do something he was terrified of, and he needed to know he had a time to escape. What do you want, details?""No." Hal sounded sick. "God, no...""I'll give you them! He never touched me until the last night. He paid for a week and spent it trying to give me things. He didn't take his gloves off, even in my bed, even when he touched me, even when he gave me the kind of pleasure I hadn't had in a year - is this what you wanted to know?""No, no, no!""He let me hold him. For one hour, he let me touch him, but he couldn't take his gloves off, and he couldn't touch me with his hands. He never let himself forget he was a killer, he took five baths a day, he drank, and drank, and wouldn't eat. I was a whore, and he wasn't even prepared to contaminate me until it got so bad that even he had to have one thing against the dark. He went out the last night and I know he killed, I know it, and then he came back and asked me if I would mind!""Oh God, Kate, please, stop, stop..."Kate's voice levelled out, grim and cold and final. "He left, and we both knew he wouldn't come back, and I owed it to him not to take that hour away from him. Not when I knew he had come back, not when I gave it all up and went to the theatre, not when I sent his son to Italy. He'd been broken, Hal. Why the hell should I add to that?""You had his child!""And he had his position!""Jesus, you're cold.""Am I? Or is this what you can't stand, Hal - that someone was there for him when you refused to be?""He asked me to promise -""Oh, you liar. You utter liar. Bugger that. You didn't want to be involved. You left the other half of your soul to be destroyed because you were too much of a coward to deal with what he'd become. Does he ever talk to you about those years, Hal? Or has he decided you'd throw him away again, if you found out?""You have his son!""No." Kate's voice was nails in a coffin. "I've cost him his son. He is never, ever going to forgive me. If you turn against him, Hal, he'll forgive you - but you'll destroy what's left of him. And what I know and you choose not to see is that there's not very much of him left to destroy. So make up your mind. Blame Guido or me, and lose him. Or hold your tongue for once and accept that this is not. About. You.""I could have loved you.""Then more fool you, for thinking that this changes that. I won't hold your past against you, Hal, and I've known it for as long as I've held Guido's child in my mind. But you? You can't even manage that."The sound of the door closing fell sharply into the resulting silence.
*And Kate hides... well*Poor Kate, poor Guido, poor Vittorio... poor everybody!Except the Doctor, he's about to get what he so richly deserves!Sic 'em, Guido *eg**bounces* More please!
Soon, my avatar, soon.....*s*
I do hope the gap is smaller than last time Rhi.Mind bending just keeping up with all the parallel stories, but I'm with child for A to wake up, and for the story to go on. I know you've been unwell, as well as busy writing in other fandoms, and then there's RL, but it was so good to see this up.
This is going to be very very ugly... uglier... oh dear...Poor Hal! I knew he'd start stuttering and take it all personally. He did possibly deserve that slap though :(It's odd to glimpse the strange wretched creature that Guido was before. It seems such a long time from The King's Man to now, yet it really hasn't been that long for him since that time, has it?Next chapter's almost done, you say?*bounces hyperactively*
*L* I think I may have to put the next chapter up as a WIP too LOL, just to keep feeding the bunnies!Glad you're still enjoying it, hon!(like the header, btw?):-) xx
I think I may have to put the next chapter up as a WIP tooPlease do!!
I think I may have to put the next chapter up as a WIP too
Is an understatement. Hal and Guido, Guido and Hal, and Kate. And Pitt, who's caught in this whole mess. Come to think of it, the only people getting along right now are Edrington and Elizabeth and Archie, who's sleeping through this, and will undoubtedly wish he was still sleeping when he finally recovers!Ah, wonderful chapter, and more is coming soon, right?
More is! *points up at the WIP chapter 'Endurance' above this one*Yeah, Archie's going to be thanking God on his knees he missed this. Unfortunately, no-one is going to be able to miss Archie waking up. *sniggers*The only thing that can be said about them is that Grigor Ivanovich did *try* to warn Guido. He wasn't understood. Oops?:-) xx