Fandom: Petshop of Horrors
Character/s: Vesca Howell, Sofu D, Papa D
Words: 1 517
Notes: The fourth part in the Dissonance Arc. Dedicated to feather_qwill, who is very patient. ♥
For as long as he can remember, and probably before even that, Vesca Howell knows that he has dreamed.
His dreams are always indistinct, as though there is something wrong with his eyes, or he is wearing someone else’s spectacles - and for a long time, he cannot name anything in them; he is merely certain he has dreamed. Even before he could remember his dreams, Vesca knew that they were significant, and by the time he is old enough to retain some details upon waking, he clings to them like a sailor to his dinghy in a storm.
He is six the first time he wakes with a memory of voice, though he cannot put words to it. It had sounded like Grandfather, he tells himself sleepily, and almost immediately shakes his head. No. It had almost sounded like Grandfather. But Vesca remembers laughter, if not quite how the laughter went, and Grandfather doesn’t laugh.
He is nine the first time he sees the face, and is confused. The man in his dream is not Grandfather, cannot be Grandfather, but looks identical in all but three respects: first, his hair is longer; second, his eyes are the colour of dusk; and third, his smile is more like Vesca’s smiles – less Grandfather and more... something else. Vesca does not know what the dream means, and he still cannot remember the words he has shared with the-man-who-is-not-Grandfather.
As the days go on, Vesca finds himself watching his Grandfather, trying to work out what could make his sleeping mind change the colour of his eyes, his disposition. And Grandfather, being Grandfather, notices, but says nothing.
Eventually Vesca asks, “Are purple eyes important, Grandfather?” He watches as all movement stills on the far side of the low table, dotted with cakes and pastries and glazed fruit. His Grandfather stares back at him, eyebrows slightly raised, but otherwise impassive.
“Where have you seen such eyes, child?” he inquires, reaching for his tea.
Vesca fees abruptly uncomfortable, as though he is breaking some sacred trust by speaking to Grandfather about this. But his desire for an answer overrides, for the moment, the tightness in his gut, and so he says, “I dream about them.”
Grandfather sips his tea, long lashes resting against the ivory of his cheeks. There is no sign that he has found the question disturbing, and that is the best sign of all. Vesca presses.
“He looks like you, Grandfather, but his eyes are purple.”
And Grandfather stills.
“These are the memories with which your father gave you life,” Grandfather says. “When you can see clearly in these dreams, you will know your own mind, separate from his.”
Vesca wants to ask when that will be, but suspects, as with so many things concerning their history, that his Grandfather will have no satisfactory answer.
By the time he is eleven, the man who is not Grandfather is giving him sly expressions across a laboratory his dream-self knows very well, so his fumblings with whatever delicate glass and metal and plastic implements he is using awaken – at a distance – a deep humiliation. Vesca does not know this place, where the man who is not Grandfather twists his lips, twists his laughter, twists his hair around one finger and makes Vesca’s heartbeat race. But in dreams, Vesca understands what goes on there – understands the purpose of the glass and the metal and the plastic. The only thing he does not appear to understand is the man who is not Grandfather.
“More dreams, child?” Grandfather runs his fingers along an orchid’s stem and smiles faintly as the flower continues to bloom, peaceful and radiant. “How wild your mind must be.”
Vesca knows it for a reprimand, but cannot bring himself to mind very much. He is finding things out. He is learning. “Yes, Grandfather. What is SUNY?”
Grandfather answers. Distant. Careful. “The State University of New York. A human place of learning.” He does not look to see the effect of his words and Vesca is glad because his eyes must be as round as saucers. A human university. He has attended a human university. Why would he—? “Not a place you should concern yourself with, child,” Sofu suggests, soft and insidious, and something in Vesca rises in his throat and speaks without him, in a voice that hardly sounds like him at all.
“How many children would you bury?” asks Vesca’s throat, mimicking Grandfather’s smooth and liquid tone. “How many children would you have buried, had I not ‘concerned myself’ with that place? Grandfather.” The voice says the word with relish and amusement, and Vesca watches Grandfather’s frozen limbs in numb horror, wondering what this voice has led him to, hoping that it knows what it is doing. Grandfather has never struck him, but he is suddenly very aware of the possibility.
But when Grandfather turns toward him, his face is as close as it will ever be to open, and his golden eyes are dull and dead, exhausted. “It has been too long since I heard your voice,” he says, and Vesca is confused.
“But Grandfather, I talk to you all the time,” he says, and is relieved and disappointed to discover that his voice is his again. It strikes him that his Grandfather feels much the same, for he stares at Vesca for half a second and does not move, his shoulders not so straight, his golden eyes closer to cheap yellow quartz, faulty and clouded with impurities.
“...I know you do, my child.”
His dreams are lonely after that; lonely and desperate. There is a rawness in him while he sleeps, so that when he wakes he cannot help choking into his pillow at the sheer relief of not feeling that way; hollow and angry and exhausted all the time. The man who is not Grandfather does not appear in these dreams, and Vesca is not so young or inexperienced, now, that he cannot see the correlation or realise what it is - who it is – that his dream self searches for.
He wonders why his dream self is alone in the human world, and why the man who is not Grandfather left him there.
He does not like his conclusions.
Vesca is fifteen when he watches the man who is not Grandfather die. He sees the kingdom rush toward him and he does not move; neither he nor his dream self is afraid of the danger any more, and when he wakes, he vomits. The only other option is to scream.
He retches until there is nothing left in his stomach, and then he climbs into the bathtub and huddles there, feeling that very soon his heart and throat and lungs will go the way of his stomach and he cannot hold it in. There is too much. They are too many.
Vesca shivers and chokes. His hands fill the bath with hot water and his voice whispers soothing things, though the voice that is not Grandfather’s sounds the worse for being piped through a throat made raw with stomach acid. Vesca’s hands card through his own hair with the gentleness of the man who is not Grandfather, the man who is dead, and Vesca can almost hear his words without his throat working at all.
“It’s too much,” he tells the other one inside him, and his own mouth responds, slowly, sadly, “Yes. I only thought to keep you, not of what else we might lose.”
“D,” says Vesca, and the admission that they are two hurts more than anything, and the knowledge that this is correct and true does nothing to lessen the pain.
“Vesca Howell,” his voice responds, and he can hear D’s voice, now, clear as memory. Grandfather has never used a surname.
“Too much,” Vesca says. His hands touch his cheeks; eyes, ears, lips. His voice comes slowly when D says, “You are mine, now. Part of me. We may try again.”
In Vesca’s small frame they are too many, but another vessel will lessen the strain, and Vesca’s tears run unchecked as he smiles helplessly into the steam.
Count D wakes with the surge of the kingdom through his halls, and by then he is already too late. By the time he reaches the bathroom there is a crowd of pets already at the door, and the child is already gone.
It is not the blood in the bathtub or the forest of vines that gives him pause – it is the baby, silent and patient as perhaps only he has learned to be. His eyes are violet as thunderclouds and his hands, when he lifts them, expectant, are the perfect ivory of all their family.
The human soul is nowhere to be felt.
Count D reaches for his son – his grandchild – his son – and wonders now how broken his child was, to shed no tear at his own child’s return to his side.
“It has been too long,” he murmurs against the child’s brow, and knows that he will not survive another parting.
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