unloose the beauty of your eyes...

Rating: T
Pairing: eventual Newton Geiszler/Hermann Gottlieb
Summary
"Gottlieb is a great believer of efficiency—both in herself and the things she uses.

Her papers are arranged with the same meticulousness that allows for the grain of her cane and desk to line up; everything has its place; nothing was out of place—ever; and it was easy to tell. The only thing that does not fit the image of a prim and proper professor of mathematics is the messy scrawl of her equations.

Other than that, the room is perfect; the picture of efficient organisation.

Well—it would have been perfect, were it not for the corpse of a man laying on the floor in front of her desk; though, in all fairness, such a sight was uncommon in her office; so uncommon, in fact, that this was the first time Gottlieb had ever seen a dead body—in her office or otherwise—at such close proximity.

A mysterious organisation; a plot to end the world—and, perhaps, even, a chance at a happy ending for a woman who is far more used to the cold silence of loneliness."

Additional information: Work title is a line taken from one of Sappho's poems:

"Stand up and look at me, face to face

My friend,

Unloose the beauty of your eyes..."

This fic is set roughly in Victorian England; Hermann Gottlieb and Newton Geiszler are both female; Hermann is, due to the prejudice of the times, living life disguised as a man. Newton Geiszler is bisexual; Hermann Gottlieb is a lesbian. Obviously, liberties have been taken, and this fic is likely rife with historical inaccuracies. If you don't like that, then don't read it; rude comments will be deleted.

This fic is endgame Newmann, and is complete.


It's the turn of the century; the end of an era, and the start of a new one—technologies advancing rapidly; the very fabric of society bending and stretching and morphing before the very eyes.

Though technically summer still, a bite of cold lingers in the air; a weakness to the sunlight foretelling of the coming of a harsh winter.

Still, the common people are enjoying the warmth of the sun—and looking forward to the new year, and its festivities.

In a remote corner of Bavaria, on the Gottlieb estate, the cause of excitement is for quite a separate reason entirely. For while the year's profits have been good—the Gottliebs run a decently prosperous trading business, and have for as long as any of them could remember—the true reason that the members of the family are in an unusually good mood is because the Madam Gottlieb is due very, very soon—at any moment, as a matter of fact.

Mister Gottlieb fancies himself another son; his concern, primarily, is for an heir to inherit his business; for while he already has two children, the eldest, Dietrich, had expressed great distaste in the family business, preferring instead to pursue a career in the medical field, much to Gottlieb's dismay, and the second, Karla—

Well.

Mister Gottlieb is, foremost, a man of tradition, and not one to be easily budged.

Madam Gottlieb, the daughter of a professor in the city, wishes, at the moment, for merely a piece to eat. She's not had much to eat, and she feels rather peckish—this pregnancy has been particularly tricky.

She tugs crossly at the unreasonably tight corset—loosed a bit, for fear of harming the child, but still tight enough the restrict as her lungs expanded—and rises to fetch food.

The sound of feet scuttling across the floor; followed by the shout of, "Verdammt!" gives her pause,

"Karla!" Madam Gottlieb scolds, lips pursed; tight; a scowl threatening to appear. A few moments later, the girl—for Madam Gottlieb can think of her daughter as nothing else, given how prone she is to such unladylike behaviours—scampers into the kitchen, dogging the steps of the old grey cat. "You know how I feet about such language."

"Oh, as if you've never let such language past your own lips, Mutti," Karla shoots back; flippant; crouches down to scoop up the poor cat, who gives a plaintive mewl of protest; wriggling in vain. She scrubs behind his ears, for a moment, putting on display long red marks on her arm; sets him back down. "Shall I fetch the bread and butter for you?"

Madam Gottlieb is silent for a moment, before she says, grudgingly, "Yes, please." She watches as the younger makes her way over to the pantry; quick and graceful; like, if she were prone to metaphor, a gazelle; and retrieves the wanted items, as well as a plate, and sets them on the table.

Madam Gottlieb lowers herself into a chair; slowly; picks up a butterknife and a slice of bread.

A second later, the contractions start, and the knife falls to the ground, sending the afternoon light bouncing off onto the walls, for a short moment mesmerising the cat.


The child born that day is not, to the vehement dismay of the Gottlieb patriarch, a little boy. Instead, it is a small girl—no more than four pounds, at most, her tiny hands clenched into fists, the wisps of hair she has flattened to her head.

"And her name?" asks the midwife; quails, a moment later, under the glare of Mister Gottlieb. She turns, then, to the mother. "Madam Gottlieb?"

Madam Gottlieb doesn't reply. Her skin has an unusually pale colouring, and she does not speak. "Madam Gottlieb?" the midwife prompts, an edge of worry to her tone. "Madam Gottlieb!"

But she makes no reply.

The midwife presses two fingers to her neck; withdraws them, trembling slightly, a hand over her mouth, a moment later. "She's..." she pauses. "She's passed on," she says, and a silence falls over the room.

The wee lass, placed in the crib, lets out nary a whimper; near-forgotten for the rest of the day; then, and only then, does the Gottlieb patriarch, with a cold glance, deign to cast an eye at her, and proclaim she is no child of his; his wife had delivered, before her death, a son— he is sure of it. This child is no relation of his—and thus, she has no name to call her own.

"Cursed," he murmurs, with a glower in her direction when, a week later, Karla happens to wander into the room he is in with the babe in her arms. "She took the life of your poor mother—"

"Enough, Lars," Karla says; sharp; the words tinged with grief at her mother's death. She holds the child tightly; protective, nearly. "That is no way to be speaking around a child."

Mister Gottlieb trails off into a mutter, but he resumes just as loudly as soon as she's out of his line of sight.

Needless to say, the girl does not have a happy childhood.

Mister Gottlieb becomes, after the death of his first wife, a surly man; prone to fits of rage and punishment. His temper is not made any more even-keeled by the fact that the girl takes after her sister; both in manner and in dress. Worsening his already foul views of her is an unfortunate accident when she's only just turned eight.

The girl—adventurous to a fault—is, in her youth, quite enamoured of the trees on the estate; taking a great deal of pleasure in scaling them—and, in the process, terrifying her governesses and tutors with the fear that she will suffer a great accident.

Tragically, that very thing happens; the merry sound of laughter, then, a misplaced foot; a hand slipping, just so, not quite purchased correctly; and then, a shout; a cry of pain; the twist of bone and blood, blood, blood.


Gottlieb sits at her desk; the picture of calm compose; the papers before her; the wood of her cane against the wood of the desk just so that the grain of one seems, almost, to bleed into the other. The décor of her office is muted; shades of grey and brown, the only colour that of her chalk on her personal boards.

It is efficient.

Gottlieb is a great believer of efficiency—both in herself and the things she uses.

Her papers are arranged with the same meticulousness that allows for the grain of her cane and desk to line up; everything has its place; nothing was out of place—ever; and it was easy to tell. The only thing that does not fit the image of a prim and proper professor of mathematics is the messy scrawl of her equations.

Other than that, the room is perfect; the picture of efficient organisation.

Well—it would have been perfect, were it not for the corpse of a man laying on the floor in front of her desk; though, in all fairness, such a sight was uncommon in her office; so uncommon, in fact, that this was the first time Gottlieb had ever seen a dead body—in her office or otherwise—at such close proximity.

The man had been shot, quite recently, by the looks of it—elsewhere, obviously, since her office lacks the tell-tale splatterings of blood indicative of a shot fired to the head—and someone had dragged it into her office while she was out.

She folds her hands beneath her chin and waits for the police to arrive—she had sent for them the moment she had stepped into her office.

Still, though, it is—odd, to say the least; who killed a man and then disposed of his body not, say, in the Thames, but in the—locked, at that—office of a mathematics professor? Surely, the culprit would have wanted to get rid of the body discreetly—and taking the time to pick a lock while one has a dead body with them is hardly the epitome of subtlety.

There is a knock on her door; sharp; lacking the hesitance so often present in her students. "Come in," she calls; rises to her feet, drawing her cane from its place.

A policeman enters; step sure. "Mister Gottlieb," he greets; she thinks, perhaps, they have met before—a social function, maybe; she cannot seem to remember.

"Professor," she corrects; a hint of irritation bleeding into her tone; then, "I found him like this on entering. Someone must have picked the lock on my office door—I keep it locked unless I am within."

"Hmm," murmurs the officer; strides over to the dead man; kneeling, so as to better to examine him; asks, gaze still fixed on the body, "You don't recognise him at all?

"No, obviously not," she snaps, "otherwise, I would have said so. This man is a stranger to me, officer—the only thing I know about him is that he is beginning to make my office smell foul." The pitch of her words rises; last few carrying the heaviness of her native Bavarian inflection in her irritation.

The officer starts; gives a small cough. "Right, yes," he says, "I'll get him out of here promptly."

"Danke," Gottlieb replies, and gives the body a glower.

It is then that something odd catches her eye. "Officer," she says; makes her way to his side, nudging the dead man's arm with the tip of her cane, "there seems to be something of interest on his arm." Something—she's not sure what, exactly—blue shows on the man's arm, covered, mostly, by the sleeve of his shirt.

The officer hesitates for a moment, before withdrawing from his pocket a handkerchief, which he uses as a barrier between himself and the dead man's skin; pushes back the sleeve to reveal a set of odd blue markings on the skin.

"Well, I'll be damned," he says, after a moment, "professor, your office was visited by none other than the Chelsea Blue."

The name adds a weight to the air; the utterance of the press' name of the killer, still at large, sends a shiver down Gottlieb's spine, but she refuses to let her discomfort show.

"It seems a bit too...clean," she comments, "weren't the others in far worse condition?"

That, she knows, is a gross understatement. The only reason that the victims have been traced back to the same killer is because, while the body usually was too savaged to identify, the killer always leaves a single area unblemished: that where there are a collection of blue tattoos—bright, savage blue, in the shape of what looked like a skull—but not one of a human or any animal anyone can parse; no, rather, it seems to be the skull of some great beast that does not exist.

The body in her office resembles more that of a man executed than a man murdered.

The officer nods. "Yes. The fact that this man was obviously killed by someone else and also has the same tattoo as the Chelsea Blue's victims could be a coincidence, but," he shoots her a look.

"It's unlikely," she finishes; she can calculate how likely it is, and the number is far, far too small to be anywhere within the realm of reasonable possibility.

He nods again. "I'm going to have to call in a team," he warns, "it might be in your best interests to make sure you take anything particularly fragile home with you, just in case—"

She wishes to argue; bites her tongue, instead; while usually, she would protest the intrusion, there is simply no way to avoid it, now. "Alright," she says; grudgingly. "I suppose the rest of my work can be completed at home or left to be finished at a later time. Is there anything else, or...?"

"No, no," replies the officer, "you can go home now, sir." And he tips his cap slightly before exiting to call for the team.

Once he has left, Gottlieb sweeps a careful eye around the room; in the end, the only things she deems necessary to take with her are an ornate globe; etched with the celestial bodies; a book of her notes; and the vase she keeps on her desk. Of those three items, only the vase has sentimental value; it is a gift from her dear sister Karla.

She arranges these carefully in her bag; snaps, with a click, the clamps shut, and picks it up, leaning into her cane for support a bit more than usual at the added weight. On the way down the hall, she passes by the night-watchman. "Vance," she greets with a nod, and the man gives her an easy grin.

"Doctor Gottlieb," he returns, "you heading out?" The question, she knows, is meant as a jab to her workaholic tendencies; rarely is there a day where she leaves before the sun has long since set.

"Yes," she replies; gives a thin-lipped, weary smile, "I'm afraid there's been a matter of utmost importance to which I must attend." Technically, it is not a lie; she has a set of houseplants that need to be watered. "Good evening to you."

"Good evening, sir," the watchman says; amicable, and she continues on her way.

The campus, bathed in the light of the setting sun, is, if one is of a certain mind, what could almost be called beautiful. Gottlieb, however, takes hardly any notice; she has other matters on her mind: who, exactly, is the dead man? And why, of all places, had the Chelsea Blue chosen her office to hide the body? Surely, it would have been more logical to dump the body than to take the risk of apprehension when breaking into her office...

Deep in thought, she almost doesn't notice that she has reached the end of the walkway; has to leap backwards to avoid a carriage passing by too close to the sidewalk at top speed. For a moment, she pants, the breath gone from her lungs, before she draws herself back up, glowering at the passerbys.

The rest of the walk to her flat is, thankfully, uneventful; there are few pedestrians on the street, and so no one attempts to greet the dour-faced mathematician, or, worse, engage in meaningless small-talk; much to her relief.

The landlady has already retired to her rooms when Gottlieb finally gets back to the house; she sets her bag down; retrieves her keys from the inner pocket of her coat, unlocking the door, the deadbolt sliding back with a familiar screee that speaks of rusting metal. She gives a wince—that thing is a bloody menace.

She returns the keys to her pocket; opens the door, before picking up her back and entering into the landing, pushing the door shut behind her with her shoulder. For a moment; then; she paused; taking a few breaths—it had been a more strenuous activity to return home, what with the added weight in her bag, and she felt quite tired.

The stairway looms ahead of her; polished wood handrail gleaming slightly by the light of the lamps in the alcoves on the wall.

She glances up its steps and into the muddy darkness where she knows the landing is with a sort of resigned exhaustion; there is no other option but to scale them, no matter how daunting an endeavour; and besides, once she has gotten to her quarters, she can prepare herself a heated bottle and take a dose of morphine for the ache in her leg—or, perhaps, a bit more than a dose; certainly, she feels, she deserves it.

"Gott," she groans; after only the third step; grips the rail tightly, clenching her teeth. Her leg gives a stab of pain, and she lets out a hiss, grip white-knuckled where she clenches the head of her cane. The fourth step, and then the fifth, she takes as fast as she dares; still has to stop—the pain is making her vision blacken.

Oh, she'd forgotten this—it's been a long time—months, she thinks—since the pain has been this bad. It must be the onset of winter; she is sure of it; the cold, wet air has always made the ache worsen.

Finally, she makes it to the landing; almost collapses to the ground with a strangled cry, catching herself with the aid of her walking-cane only at the last moment. "Schieße," she grunts; heaves herself up and stumbles to her door, leaning against it as she fumbles for the keys to her own rooms; almost dropping them, and, hand shaking, slots the key into the lock.

"Open, damn it," she groans, jiggling the handle, which stubbornly refuses to comply. She gives the key a glare; presses the handle down as hard as she can, putting all her weight behind it—

And then the door falls open; sends her sprawling to the ground.

For a moment, she lays there; the room around her swimming with pain; she barely registers anything else—it feels as if someone has gone at her leg with a hot iron, so blinding is the sensation.

And then, slowly, it ebbs; just a little; but enough that, groggily, she manages to retrieve her cane from where it has fallen; crawl to the plush chair, where she collapses, limply; back hitting the soft cushion. Finally, the weight lifted from her leg, the pain subsides a bit more.

She waits until her hands have stopped shaking to reach for the needle and the morphine; she knows from experience that, unless her hands are steady, injecting it will be both unpleasant and a difficult task.

The pain of the needle breaking the skin barely registers; deftly, she presses down on the flat top of the syringe; watches as the metal pushes the liquid out through the needle; the cold of morphine slipping into her blood a moment later.

She pulls the needle out; sets it on the table; leans back with a sigh, letting her eyes slip shut; slowly, the pain leeches away, leaving only the feeling of hollow numbness.


The next day, she returns to the classroom, rather than her office; it is off-limits, still, though no longer swarmed by officers. She realises with irritation that that means she will have to take lunch either in the staff-room or in her classroom; neither of which are particularly appetizing options.

The Wei-Tang triplets—all of whom teach language courses—will be upon her in a trice; the young Professor Bachman is a particularly unpleasant man at the best of times, and Gottlieb's leg has taken quite a bit more strain than she is used to, already, the day before.

Or...

Though she cringes at the mere thought of stepping foot into the dirty alleys and mud-covered cobblestone streets, there are a number of decent street-food vendors in the area; and, frankly, the idea of eating what she had managed to throw together, even if her office had been available, is not terribly appealing.

The day seems to drag on slower than usual; she feels as if everything has been trapped in viscous, slow-moving resin; her only respite the fact that she teaches advanced classes; at least her students do not make the habit of asking questions that are not relevant to the subject material.

Finally, the last student bids her, "Good day, sir," and files out of the room, leaving her alone with the chalkboards.

She lets out a relieved breath; mentally, she feels quite as if someone had drained her of all her energy; leaving behind merely a shell.

She frowns at the thought; it must be the effects of hunger.

The street vendors offer her a wide variety of food, and at a reasonable expense; she opts for something with a decent resemblance to pasta, and a sandwich, and, at the last moment, indulges and buys a sweet pastry; absconds, then, to a bench in a nearby park; hidden behind some trees; an area unlikely for someone to stumble upon accidentally, and thus, affording both privacy and quiet.

As she eats, Gottlieb observes the sway of the grass in the breeze; faintly, she thinks she hears the cry of a songbird; a duck waddles by, about halfway through her meal, on its way to the small pond. It seems almost as if no other humans exist, in that moment—just Gottlieb, the plants, the bench, and the animals.

It is...oddly calming.

Less calming is the reaction elicited when she checks her pocket-watch; if she does not hasten back, she will be late for her next class—and she loathes not being punctual, or, better yet, early.

"Damn," she hisses; rising as quickly as she dares; disturbing, in the process, the bird that had so picturesquely alighted on the arm of the bench, who rises, as well, with a flap of its wings and a disgusted squawk of indignation.

She shoots it a dirty glare, and hurries back.

In the end, she is not, to her great, if unvoiced, relief, late; and, in a stroke of luck, her office has finally been deemed to be acceptable for her to use again by the policemen. While there are a number of muddy boot-marks—enough to make her eye twitch—there is no true, non-aesthetic, damage. She breathes a sigh of relief and sets her bag on her desk, easing into her chair, and surveys the room.

There is, for a moment, a sense of anticipation—as if the sword of Damocles hangs over her.

And then, there is a knock on the door.