December 24, 1839
The cemetery was nearly empty this Christmas Eve. Though ghosts roamed through the minds of the citizens, they were too busy preparing a holiday for the living to court them. Here and there a widow came to place a winter flower on a departed partner's grave, or a widower stopped by to bid his lost wife a merry Christmas. The two men were the only ones who made the trek through the snow together.
Daniel had made great progress in his recovery over the past month. His hair was growing back in its natural brown color, slowly overtaking the white, and he was back to his normal weight. Though still pale, his face had regained some of its boyishness, and his eyes were no longer shadowed. He walked with purpose, even if Henry did have to steer him the right way now and then. Now that he was working again, he was well-dressed and handsomely groomed. At long last, he was beginning to resemble the young gentleman that had left London eight months ago.
Henry was as robust as ever. His face tended to scruffiness in the late hours, but he kept himself clean-shaven for Daniel's sake. He kept his massive frame disguised in academic attire of the finest quality, and even affected to wear spectacles to take the focus off his heavy jaw. He had reopened his practice once Daniel returned to work, and was doing as well as ever. Paternoster had not rescinded the benefits he had incurred working with the Sol Invictus Mithras, and had even extended an invitation for him to join their upcoming meetings in the new year. Henry was skeptical, but Daniel was encouraging him to go. Henry was mildly annoyed that Daniel was still lured by the glamour of the esoteric, but he was loathe to give up on the Sol Invictus Mithras himself.
All that can wait for the new year, Henry thought. He caught Daniel by the hand and pointed out the correct lane of the cemetery to him. With a determined "right", Daniel went on ahead again. For now, there is one more hurtle to clear before we have a happy Christmas together.
"You haven't told me why we've come out here," Henry said. "This is no way to spend Christmas Eve, Daniel."
Daniel did not respond. His eyes darted about the headstones sharply. He jogged on up ahead, and came to a stop before a particular one. Henry followed him and stood by his side. They looked down at the headstone of Daniel's father in a stormy silence.
"Why have you come?" Henry asked.
"I had to see that it was real," Daniel finally explained. "I had to see that it was actually real."
"I see. Well, there is your answer."
Daniel's face filled with such loathing that Henry hardly recognized him. He actually kicked the headstone.
"Good," he spat bitterly. "Good. He's gone. He's finally gone. I'm glad."
"If that's the way that you feel, then perhaps now is the time to tell you one last truth."
Daniel's face changed swiftly as he looked up at Henry. Suddenly, he was as curious and guileless as ever. Those two sides of his are dangerous, Henry thought. One extreme will make you adore him, and the other will lash out at you with all the murderous rage of a child.
"I should have told you earlier, but I couldn't bring myself to while you were unwell," Henry said. "But I promised not to lie to you, so I must get rid of this secret between us. Daniel, I was the one that killed your father."
"Is that a joke?" Daniel asked with a laugh. "How would you have killed my father?"
"When I helped bring him to the room, we had a brief moment alone," Henry explained. "Your mother went for the doctor, and Hazel went to you. I ordered Mandus to fetch some things to get him out of the room. I had come with the idea in mind, so I was prepared. I injected him with a certain chemical that accelerates the heartbeat. In a healthy person, it would only revivify them, but in a man already suffering an attack—well."
Daniel gave a startled laugh. He shook his head in wonder, looked down at the headstone. When he looked at Henry again, he seemed more quizzical than anything else. Henry could not see a drop of accusation or sorrow in his eyes.
"But why would you do that?" Daniel asked. "I did hate him, but it was hardly worth your getting involved."
"I told myself that it was to push you, so that Alexander could be drawn out and gotten rid of once and for all," Henry said. "That was what I planned, but it wasn't the true reason. In all honesty, I hated your father."
"Why? For beating me?" Daniel laughed. "You used to beat me yourself! Still do, if I give you reason."
"Daniel, do you know why I never retaliated against you for bashing me with that rock?"
"I thought I had knocked you dumb, but that clearly wasn't the case," Daniel said. "You did move away shortly after."
"I had plenty of time to punish you for it, and I was not injured badly," Henry said. "No, the reason was your father."
"He was out that day and he witnessed that fight," Henry reminded Daniel. "When he saw you hit me, he came over, do you remember?"
"How could I forget?" Daniel glared at the headstone. "He was so furious that he cuffed me and beat me with his walking stick right there in front of everyone. But that should have pleased you, after what I'd done."
"It didn't," Henry said sourly. "When I saw the way that you looked at your father, I was jealous. I knew that until I was a man, you would never look at me with such awed fear and respect. It broke my spirit to see you submit so completely to someone other than me, especially just after you stopped submitting to me. The whole thing broke my spirit. I was quite depressed."
"That is perverse," Daniel said with an amused sniff. "So you harbored a grudge all this time?"
"It wasn't only because of that day, of course," Henry said. "I was a dumb brutish bully when I pummeled you, and your father was a grown man. There is nothing wrong with discipline, but everyone knew the kind of abuse he subjected you to. No man should kick and punch and lash a child until they bleed."
"So even your sadism has its limits."
"I'm not a monster," Henry said. "I was once, but I'm not anymore."
"No. No, you're not," Daniel agreed. "I was raised by a monster, and I became a monster myself. You're rather a beast, but you're not a monster."
"A beast, am I?"
"A gentleman beast."
"That doesn't sound much better."
They laughed. Daniel knelt down and put something on the grave. Henry knelt beside him to see what it was. It turned out to be a penny candy, ancient and grimy.
"I stole this when I was a boy," Daniel said. "My father found out and beat me so badly that I could never bring myself to eat it. For some reason, I've kept it all these years. It was still there in my things when I returned from Prussia. I don't know why I kept it. Perhaps it was because it reminded me of my defiance. Whatever the reason, let it remind him of those horrible times for a change. If there is anything left of him, let him have those memories, and be damned! I'm done with them. I'm done with him."
Daniel stood and brushed his gloved hands on his jacket. He took Henry's hand in his own discreetly and squeezed it. Had they not been in public, they would have kissed.
"Thank you, Henry."
"For killing him?"
"That, and everything," Daniel said. "I know that sounds awful, but I'm done torturing myself. I've had it. I can't change the past, and I can't suffer for it forever. I know that if I start to go wrong again, you'll reign me in, won't you?"
"With great pleasure."
Daniel blushed attractively. His smile was sheepish.
"Then, I'll entrust myself to you," he said. "Will that be all right?"
"Rest that exhausted mind of yours, Daniel," Henry said. "I will take care of you, always."
"I love you, Henry."
He had never said the words so certainly before. Henry almost lost himself to the desire to kiss him, but managed to refrain. Instead, he took his arm in the manner of friends, and led him out of the cemetery.
A light snow began to fall as they climbed into the waiting carriage. Inside, Henry drew the curtains over the windows and pulled Daniel into a ferocious kiss. Daniel met him with equal passion, and even bit his bottom lip in his fervor. The taste of blood spread through their mouths, familiar enough to both men to be welcome.