Fandom: Count Cain
Characters: Cain-centric, also Riff. With obvious future Riff/Cain.
Warnings: I suppose a warning for vague, non-detailed violence is in order. But otherwise it's pretty innocent. Oh, and it also has the dreaded second-person POV.
Summary: After Alexis disappears into the sea, Cain's life begins to take on new dimensions. How bad can it be, really, to call oneself a murderer?
You make your lists early; you make them young. There’s no other way of it.
Every other way lies madness, or the life of a beaten-down and pathetic thing: there’s no salvation in being meek. You learn that at the same time you learn who your real mother was, and your life turns over on its head. Believing in your father’s rules, becoming obedient as a pet dog — that won’t rescue you from his wrath. You’re not so old at all when you label him as your enemy, and you know right as you do it that it is a decision you won’t ever turn back on. Any prevaricating on your part will make you weak only, not wise.
Once your father goes to sleep under the sea, you find yourself a murderer in more than his crazed daydreams. You put on black and a pin made of jet, but you don’t shed a single tear at his funeral, nor will you ever.
It occurs to you that it’s not such a bad thing, living up to your name. Murderer: you put on the word like a velvety cloak and cultivate the habit of smiling slyly at well-bred ladies (there are a lot of them all of a sudden, now that you’re Earl Hargreaves) who shudder at reports of crimes in the daily news.
The youngest Earl Hargreaves anyone can recall, you’re preeminently marriageable. Families of the oldest blood in England come to call, lords and ladies who bring with them pretty, beribboned daughters. You stare at those girls in amazement; these are children whose parents never drew bloody lines up and down their backs. It’s as if you were speaking to people from a far distant country.
When it finally occurs to you that they visit you because you’re the Earl now, because you’re the master of the house, it drops you to the floor.
You can feel your scars ache, as if they want to burn through your shirt, and suddenly know that you’re not invisible, that you won’t ever have to be invisible again. The next day, you fire half of the servants, wondering why you didn’t think to do it before.
Riff helps you gather your father’s clothing, his bed linens, a long treatise he had written in his spare time on different types of sparrows, and together you burn them in the courtyard. The firelight is something beautiful and rare when it flickers across Riff’s face and your own clasped hands.
It’s not long before you find yourself astonished at the thought that there was ever a time when you were beaten simply for being what you were named. Poison is a lovely addiction, and soon you realize that your father was hardly one of a kind: there are so many lords and ladies who could stand to be caught up in their own webs.
You remain an object of interest and envy all through high society, but it takes no time at all for that reputation too to become tinged with poison. You get sidelong glances from time to time, and people whisper behind their hands nearly a millennium’s worth of rumors about the Hargreaves family. They too know what you are, and they look at you like someone might look at a rare but dangerous African jungle cat.
But you have Riff, Riff who is always there. And you have determination. Riff won’t ever leave you: Riff with his white-blond hair (white like a ray of morning light on a windowsill), Riff with his long-fingered, dextrous hands — a doctor’s hands, smooth in their motions and perfectly still when there’s no need for movement. Riff with the broad, square, shapely shoulders. You can watch him in the afternoons when he pours tea, how he moves when he does even the simplest of tasks.
When he helps you to pierce your ear with a needle, when a few drops of blood stain both your fingers — you’re fourteen then. You haven’t touched him, not yet. But you’ve already thought about it: about how tall he is, and about the shape of his face; about how some things are sins and how you don’t really care. It’s immediate, and you know that what you’re feeling is not love; it’s simply certainty. There is no fluttering hummingbird in your chest, just a sureness about how your life will be.
For now, it’s more than enough. (Enough to make you forget that you were conceived and born under unkind stars; enough to make you forget that Riff was brought into the house by a man who left behind him a series of tiny graves and empty birdcages . . . . )
How old is Cain when he pierces his ear? I'm terrible at keeping track of the timeline for this series, tbh, so forgive me if I've made a mistake. But Cain is 13-14 in Elizabeth in the Looking-Glass and he doesn't seem to have the earring then . . . .
As a side note, this entire fic really just exists for the opening lines. :P