November 7th, 2007
Title: Mount Fraught Syndrome: Chapter 5
Rating: PG-13, probably edging towards R in this chapter.
Summary: In which Violet tries to work out what to do next.
Warning: Like the last one with Violet and Olaf, this is not a pleasant chapter. There's violence, threatened sexual assault, and a small amount of bad language. The good news is that I'm pretty sure this is as bad as it's going to get, so future chapters will most likely not be this scary, and I won't have to look through my fingers while I'm writing them.
Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four
The morning after her parents died, Violet had woken up thinking That was a horrible dream. I’m glad it’s over, and I’m safely back at home.
She didn’t think that this time. The memories were there as soon as she opened her eyes, and for a long time she lay curled on the bed, arms crossed over her chest to keep from splitting apart. This was why people talked about broken hearts, she thought. Something in her was shattered, filling her body with bright, sharp splinters.
She nearly spoke, wanting to tell Klaus what she’d realised, but Klaus wasn’t there. Of course. Klaus never would be there. My head is spinning, that was another one. My heart is broken and my head is spinning. Hers was spinning back to the same few thoughts, a record playing over and over. She opened her mouth again and spoke them out loud, in case that would pin them down and make the whirling stop.
“Klaus is dead,” she whispered. Her voice was flat in the still air, and hoarse from last night’s screaming. “And Sunny’s dead.” Tears ran over her cheeks, soaking into the thin grey pillow. “And I’m trapped in this house, with Count Olaf, and he nearly – he was going to…” That word wouldn’t come at all. “Hurt me, he was going to hurt me. And it’s all my fault. I couldn’t do anything…”
But it’s not. And I did.
Violet rolled on to her back, staring up at the ceiling. It wasn’t her fault. She’d realised that last night, even in her hysteria. Maybe there was a way she could have saved her family, given a little more time or a flash of inspiration, and that maybe would never truly leave her, any more than their deaths would. But she had not murdered them. It would be easier to think that way. She could give up if that was true, sink into apathy and accept whatever suffering still awaited her as punishment. But the truth was, Count Olaf was the murderer. He was the one to blame. And…
“I have to stop him!” she cried, hands clenching at her sides, voice raw and grating in her throat. “I have to do something! I’m the only one who knows!”
Yes, but how? What can you do against him, Violet?
She shook her head. “I don’t know.” She sat up, slowly, feeling her limbs chilled in the room’s cold air. “But something. I have to try.”
There was a bowl of water by the bed, she saw now, and a thin, greyish towel and a sliver of hard soap. Someone must have brought them during the night, along with the bowl of oatmeal and the chipped mug of water that stood on a tray by the door. I hope that was one of the women. She shuddered. At least I can get clean.
She pushed the bed in front of the door, and carried the bowl to a corner of the room where she was fairly sure she couldn’t be seen through the window, before finally taking off the wedding dress. She tried to ball it up and hurl it into a corner, but it unfurled itself and floated to the ground. Quickly she scrubbed herself clean, almost astonished to find splashes of blood on her skin. I bit him. That really happened. The act itself she could hardly remember. She just knew that one moment Olaf had been about to –
- hurt me –
- yes, that, and the next he’d been stumbling away, staring at her in shock and pain and… fear? Yes, she thought maybe even fear.
“I fought him,” she breathed, looking down at her reflection in the water, her pale, red-eyed face surrounded by a tangled black cloud of hair. “I did. Did you see that, Sunny?” she called, raising damp eyes to the ceiling. “That was for you! I couldn’t have done it without you!”
She half expected a reply, but of course none came. Wherever Sunny was now, if she was anywhere, Violet couldn’t hear her.
She dried her eyes, and then the rest of herself, with the threadbare towel, and put on some of her own clothes. Then she sat down on the bed and ate the oatmeal. It was cold and lumpy, but she forced herself to eat it, washing each spoonful down with a sip of water. She would need all the energy she could get.
Then, she tied back her hair.
As always when she started to invent, she felt gears turning in her mind, smoothly clicking their way to a solution. She was inventing a plan, not a mechanism, but the principle hadn’t changed. Two questions. What do I need, and what do I have?
I need to stop Count Olaf, for good. I need to make sure that everyone knows what he did, and that he pays for it.
Good. That part was easy. Now what did she have?
Nothing, the panicky voice interrupted, nothing and no one, no one will listen…
No. She pushed that thought away. I have more than that. I have… my knowledge, that he is a murderer and a thief and a… vicious, cruel, terrible man. I have my knowledge of his crimes. I have that, and I have…
The word crimes sparked a memory. “Justice Strauss!” Violet cried, out loud, almost jumping from the bed in her excitement. She’d almost forgotten her! The one person who had been both kind and helpful. Surely she could help now, if she knew what Olaf had done…
She didn’t help when I married him. The gears slipped again. But – that had been different. The marriage was legal, that was the terrible thing about it. Having two children murdered in cold blood was definitely not.
Neither was hanging Sunny out of a window, and she didn’t say anything about that.
“She didn’t know,” Violet told herself, sternly. “He never actually admitted it, he just said that thing about being tied up. There wasn’t any proof…”
She broke off, one hand pressed to her mouth as the truth of what she’d just said hit her. No proof. What proof did she have? Only her word against Olaf’s, and he would lie the way he always did.
But – she knows he’ll try to trick her. She won’t believe him.
Yes, that was right. And that was the worst thing of all. Justice Strauss would know that Olaf was lying, would believe Violet’s story, would want desperately to help her – and would be unable to do a thing. Because the law needed evidence, and Violet had none.
The glasses… the bite…
Oh, he’d have a story to explain those. Probably he’d say that Klaus and Sunny had run away, ungrateful children that they were. And their bodies lay out in the hinterlands, torn and broken and alone, never to be found…
The gears slipped, crashed, broke, and Violet’s fists smashed into the bed, over and over. Pain shot up her arms with each blow, but she didn’t care, welcomed it in fact. It made the whole thing seem less futile, as if someone would hear the creaking springs or her voice shrieking no, no, no into the empty room, as if anyone who heard that would care. But why not scream, why not punch and kick and sob into the mattress, why not just plain go crazy? Nothing she did would change anything. Klaus would still be dead, Sunny would still be dead, Olaf would still have won, so why bother to resist?
There was a sudden, painful spasm in her chest. At first it seemed like just another part of her grief, then, as the pains returned, sharp and stabbing for a moment before fading, she realised what she’d done and stopped moving, fighting a horrible urge to laugh. Of all the things that could happen on the edge of a mental breakdown, to end up giving herself the hiccups…
That decides it. She wiped a hand across her face, taking a breath and holding it while she counted, one Mississippi, two Mississippi. I’m not giving up, not like that anyway. It’s too undignified. Not nearly as romantic as people think.
She did laugh then, a short, bitter gasp, and sat up. Her breathing was steadier now, shaky but regular. A few strands of hair had escaped from the ribbon, and she pulled them back and tied the knot a little tighter. There. Now, start again. I need evidence. How am I going to get it?
The tower? Would he have written something down? But she’d need another grappling hook, and the tower was probably guarded, assuming she could get to it in the first place… Her hands were shaking. “Stop it,” she muttered, locking her fingers together, wincing a little at the pain in her grazed knuckles. “First things first. I need… to get out of this room."
She let out a great sigh of relief. There was a problem she could solve. Worry about the rest later.
Now, what do I have? How do I do it?
The window seemed an obvious place to start. She looked up at it, and moaned in frustration. While she’d slept, Olaf and his accomplices had done more than bring her oatmeal. Someone had nailed bars across the window, outside the glass. If she’d been thinking more clearly, she’d have noticed them straight away.
She examined the bars to see if there might be a way of detaching them from the inside, but it was impossible unless she broke the window, and if she did that she’d be caught before removing even one. That left the door. She pulled the bed from in front of it, and knelt down to inspect the lock.
“Yes,” she muttered, peering into the keyhole. “Finally.” It was a standard pin tumbler lock, nothing complicated. All she’d need was a thin piece of metal and plenty of time. The only problem was that she’d used most of the room’s metal objects for the grappling hook – the bright splinters in her twisted at the memory, but she ignored them, focused on her problem – there had to be something left. Maybe the mattress springs. If she could work one out, without tearing the fabric too much just in case –
There were rapid footsteps outside, and the view through the keyhole abruptly went black as a key was thrust into it. Violet’s heart fluttered as she scrambled to her feet, stepping back just in time to avoid being hit when Count Olaf flung open the door.
Time seemed to slow down. It must have taken him only a second to step into the room and grab hold of her arm, but in that one second Violet saw how the bridge of Olaf’s nose was swollen and a dark reddish-purple, and how his shirt was buttoned in all the wrong holes and his hair even more unkempt than usual, and most of all she saw the long, gleaming knife in his hand. Then his fingers were around her wrist, twisting her arm, and the point of the blade was at her throat. Barely touching, not drawing blood, not yet, but still she couldn’t struggle or cry out.
“You are damn lucky I didn’t kill you last night,” Olaf snarled. His hand was shaking, fury radiating off him like heat yet somehow Violet was cold, arms prickling with the chill. “You do anything like that again and I will tear you apart, I swear it. I’ll make what happened to the rest of your worthless family seem merciful.” He dragged her closer, spitting the words into her face. “Do you understand me?”
“Yes.” She had a voice, by some miracle, a thin, breathless whisper of one but at least not tearful. She wouldn’t cry for him if she could help it.
“Yes, I – I understand.” Was that right, was that what she had to say? She couldn’t tell. Any mistake now would be the end. She lowered her eyes. “I’m sorry,” she whispered, hoping the tightness in her voice would be taken for fear and not disgust at the lie.
Olaf didn’t respond for a while. Violet wished she could see his face, but she knew if she looked up, if she said or did anything, things would be worse. She kept still instead and listened, waited as his rough, heavy breathing gradually slowed and calmed. There was a strange whistling noise every time he inhaled, that in other circumstances Violet would have found ridiculous. Now she felt as though she were standing on the edge of a deep, black hole. The thought of her own death hadn’t occurred to her, except in the most abstract sense. Now it was real, and she couldn’t let it happen. Her siblings needed her, still, even though they were gone.
“Right,” Olaf muttered. The knife moved away from Violet’s throat, and she gasped in relief without meaning to as the grip on her arm slackened, letting her turn it back the right way. She dared to look up just as Olaf turned away and strode toward the door, pulling her after him.
He didn’t look at her. The house seemed deserted apart from the two of them, but Violet didn’t have much time to look as she was dragged along, doing her best not to stumble. Where are we going? she nearly asked, but that was a stupid question, wasn’t it? She knew the answer.
She was his wife, after all.
Panic threatened again, but it was getting easier and easier to push back. The ribbon helped. She reached up to touch it with her free hand. I have to let him do it. That’s not giving in, not if the other choice is dying. I’m making him think it is. I’m the one tricking him now. It won’t be so bad, if I look at it that way…
She could tell herself that and believe it, but her feet still froze in the doorway of his room. Olaf gave a disgusted sigh, turned back and pushed her, so she staggered toward the bed. She stared down at his tangled grey sheets, and the door clicked shut behind her, and she closed her eyes and felt the sour, slimy taste of fear and lumpy oatmeal rise in her throat. It’s not so bad, not compared to losing them, nothing’s that bad, and this is just happening to my body, it’s just going to hurt and then it’s over. Then it’s over.
She felt him come up behind her. His breath on her hair.
I won’t scream, I won’t cry, just let it happen, it’s not going to…
“Give me your hand,” Olaf said, and Violet’s eyes flew open again.
“I said, give me your hand.” He made a grab for her arm again, and she pulled back without thinking.
“What are you doing?” The question was out before she could stop it.
Olaf glared at her. “Making sure this looks like a proper marriage,” he said, in a tone that suggested he was being very patient with her by explaining this. He raised the knife a little, so that light shone off the blade. “There are two ways we can do that, Violet. This way’s a lot quicker and a lot less unpleasant for you, but if you’re going to be difficult about it…” He trailed off, letting his smirk and the way his eyes trailed up and down her body finish the sentence. Violet drew back, arms crossed over her chest.
“But you…” There didn’t seem enough air in her lungs for her to speak, but she could hear herself, just, and assumed he could too. “I thought that’s – what – what you wanted…”
Olaf stared. The smirk faded, leaving a weird, blank expression that she didn’t have time to identify before it transformed once again into a sneer of disgust. “Don’t flatter yourself,” he spat. The room seemed to twist, almost knocking Violet against the wall. She tensed, managing to stay upright. “You think I went to all this trouble for you? You’re here because your sainted parents left you a very large sum of money, and that’s all. Don’t ever forget it.” He took a step toward her, raising the knife again. “Now are you going to hold your hand out like a good little girl, or do I have to…”
Violet’s left arm shot forward. Olaf took her wrist, a little less roughly this time, and drew the knife across her palm. She was aware that it hurt, that the wound wasn’t deep but it would sting for a long time and probably take days to heal fully, but the pain seemed unimportant. A rushing sound that might have been her heartbeat echoed in her ears as she watched three drops of blood splash onto the sheets. Olaf frowned at them, then pushed her arm back down. “That’s enough.” He glanced at her, sideways, not meeting her eyes, then turned away again and headed for the door.
Violet didn’t move. Another echo of last night was on her, that sense of brightness, over-reality, that she’d felt after the bite. She gazed at her cut hand, the lines on her palm sharp and defined, a vivid trail of blood running slowly down toward her wrist. Olaf turned in the doorway. “Are you coming, or do I have to drag you again?”
She turned to face him. Her fingers closed over her wound. “Don’t flatter myself?” she repeated, and while again her tone was high and incredulous she didn’t feel in any danger of losing control. “Don’t flatter myself. I see. I guess I misunderstood, then. I suppose there’s some other reason you had both my siblings murdered and kept me alive, because I’m such a pretty girl.”
Olaf’s face turned paler than usual, apart from the bite. “You – don’t – know – anything,” he hissed, leaving the doorway and coming toward her and Violet knew she should be quiet, it wasn’t that she couldn’t be quiet, she just didn’t want to. Her own face she knew was flushed with rage and it was good to feel angry, it was pure and clear, not like the dark, murky, clinging feelings of grief and guilt and despair.
“Don’t I?” she asked, spreading her arms as if addressing a whole crowd of people who could answer, as if standing on a stage. “Maybe you’d better explain, then. What exactly are my responsibilities as your wife? Because I thought that had something to do with letting you rape me, but obviously I was just…”
She didn’t see his hand move. One moment she was standing and the next she was on the floor, pain blossoming in her cheek, fingers clutching at the carpet as if belatedly trying to keep her balance. Olaf gripped her hair and wrenched her head back. For the second time that day, she felt cold metal at her throat.
“What did I say about defying me? What did I say, Violet?” She was speechless. He shook her by the hair. “Answer me, damn it! Or do you want me to kill you? Huh? Want me to slash that fragile little neck? Want to see Mommy and Daddy again, is that it, you stupid brat?”
I’m dead, Violet thought, and I failed you again. Klaus, Sunny… I was stupid, I was reckless. I’m so sorry. She closed her eyes, tears spilling from them for the last time. “No…” It can’t end like this. What have I done?
She heard Olaf bend down, felt his breath against her ear. “Then keep your damn mouth shut,” he snarled, and let go of her hair. She crashed to the floor again, breathless, still waiting for death. Only when she saw him stand up, wiping his hand on his shirt as though he’d touched something dirty, did she realise he’d thought she was answering him.
“Get up,” he ordered, and Violet, still half winded, obeyed.
Back in her room she collapsed onto the bed, hands clasped over her racing heart. Later she would get up. She’d bandage her hand with something, and then see about unlocking the door. For now, she just lay there, shaking and whispering promises to Klaus and Sunny, if they could hear her.
I’m sorry. I’ll be careful. I won’t let you down, not again.
She owed it to them to survive. She was the lucky one, after all.
AN: In case anyone doesn't know, the blood on the sheets thing was used many years ago as proof that a woman had lost her virginity. I don't think the ASOUE-verse legal system is actually archaic enough to require this, but Olaf's mainly doing it to humiliate Violet.
Wow, fuckin' creepy. Thanks for updating!
Nice job with Violet, particularly the way she thinks about inventing. The bit where she rejects blaming herself and resolves to stop Olaf out of obligation to the dead could have been written for Lemony (but of course it works here too). Was the parallel deliberate?
I like how you write Olaf, and his hints of complexity, too. The way he seems offended by the suggestion of any other motive than avarice (and possibly revenge against the other side of the schism) is very in character. The momentary blank expression was intriguing, and all his reactions in that scene were very well handled.
I didn't entirely understand why Violet responds to him not raping her by essentially daring him to. I get that she's angry and confused, but I feel like you had more in mind that I'm missing.
It's not that she's daring him to do it (although looking back I can see how you could read it that way), it's that she's demanding he admits trying to. Because he's basically accused her of making it up, and implied that she's the one who wants him, so she's saying, okay, explain what you said and explain why I had to bite you to get you off me? Of course, yelling this at him is a really bad idea, but she's not in a position to think rationally at that point.
The parallel with Lemony... I can't remember now if I consciously recognised it when I wrote that part, but you're right, it's definitely there...