Falling Away from the World
Title: Falling Away From The World
Author: Hannah ‘Rainwoman’ Orlove
Fandom(s): Sleepy Hollow
Disclaimer: I don’t own them. I have no money, just a few back issues of Green Lantern and X-Men. Please don’t sue.
Notes: This takes place in 1877. Ichabod is one hundred and three (born 1774), Katrina is ninety-seven (born 1780), and Christiaan is one hundred and thirty-five (born 1742).
Over the years, a road made out of stones had grown up over the one of dirt. The journey from Sleepy Hollow to New York City had been cut at least in half.
Ichabod was one of the people most thankful for this convenience of the modern world. As he lay back in the carriage, he couldn’t repress a smile. He always was living in ‘the modern world.’
He dozed a bit, which he found much easier to do, now that the road was flat.
By the time he got to his destination, though, he was wide awake. Not from fear, but from anticipation. It had been almost ten months since he had seen Katrina.
A grand house in a style popular a hundred years ago loomed in front of him. The nameplate beside the gate read “Walker.” Ichabod had seen two other names occupy that spot in all the time he had been coming here.
Katrina had married Eric Robertson in 1806 and had had six years and four children with him: Franklin, Isabelle, and the twins Paul and Peter. Eric had died in 1812, seven months before the twins’ birth. By then, Katrina had managed to revert to her old name. Ichabod suspected it was from a desire to pass on the Van Tassel name but had never asked.
Laurence Walker had married Katrina in 1818. She was thirty-eight then, no longer young, but still beautiful. And, more importantly for most, still quite rich. Laurence had given Katrina her last two children, Sarah and Brom, both named for childhood friends. Their father had died in 1830 at the age of seventy. Katrina had decided to not marry again. She had gotten her first daughter-in-law by then, and was looking forward to grandchildren.
She had them in abundance now, along with great-grandchildren.
All this came unbidden to Ichabod’s mind while he walked up the path to the large front door. He didn’t have time to knock upon it, as a woman opened the door for him. It took him a moment to recognize her as Ruth, one of the granddaughters.
She smiled warmly and stepped to the side to allow him into the house. “She’s waiting for you.” ‘She’ was obvious, and needed no clarification.
This part of the house, at least, hadn’t changed a lot since he’d last seen it – elsewhere there were rooms and wings that seemed to get up and walk away and leave strange facsimiles in their wake. The hallway was still largely the same. There were the portraits, the still lifes, and the landscapes lining the walls. Farther on in there were photographs, though, and there were more knickknacks in the cabinets.
Ruth led him to the library, a large room lit by a fireplace. He could see the back of Katrina’s head peeking over a chair. She turned and looked at him, giving Ichabod a strong sense of déjà vu, but he was viciously attacked before he could say hello.
A dozen small children, from anywhere between four and eleven, were swarming over him, hugging his legs, giggling at the pleasure of seeing their strange family friend.
“Ichabod!” “Ichabod!” “Ichabod!” “Where have you been?” “Why has it been so long since you came?” “Did you bring me anything?” “Did you bring me anything?”
Ichabod couldn’t help but smile. “Yes, yes, yes, I brought something for all of you.” He put down his bag, but no one dared to open it up – no one knew what was inside. It could have been anything from a white rabbit to someone’s head.
Ichabod bent down. From where he crouched, he glanced up at Katrina. At ninety-seven she was very old, though not as old as he or Christiaan, and still healthier than many people half her age. She smiled down at him, to say she had been in this situation before and he had her sympathies.
He kept smiling as he distributed the gifts he’d gotten for them in the Hollow – several rubber balls, three books, many sticks of cinnamon, a couple of carved wooden soldiers and two toy kittens.
He had just given one of the great-granddaughters her kitten when he glanced to the doorway to the dining room. A girl even younger than the one he’d given the kitten to was staring at him with what could only be melancholy. He was about to ask her to come in when he saw her father walk over and pull her away.
James Bennett was Sarah’s first son and had been the only child of Sarah to not be a witch. He’d been ostracized by many for that, and was now, for some reason, proud that he hadn’t fathered any witches. He’d always stayed very far from Ichabod, even as a little boy, and was determined to impress his own values onto his children.
Ichabod stood up and not even the laughter of the children at his feet could dim his newfound sense of sadness.
Katrina was finally able to cross over to stand next to him. She sighed. “I’m sorry you had to see that.” She looked up at him, “He’s very nice, really, if you get to know him.”
“He seems determined not to do that.”
“I know. I’m sorry; that wasn’t a good way to greet a friend.” She turned to look up at him. “So, how are you getting on?”
“Oh, quite well, thank you,” Ichabod was a bit more relaxed now that he was talking with someone he was comfortable with. “My garden is coming along nicely, I’ve ordered some books from Europe, we just…” He stopped quickly.
Mortified at having brought up the subject of Christiaan, even indirectly, Ichabod covered it up almost immediately. “I brought something for you as well.” He bent down again and rummaged in his bag for a moment before finding the tightly covered jug. “What’s in here is just for you.”
Katrina had to sit down again to take off the cloth cover. She gave a small squeal of delight when she saw the contents. “Cherries!” The jug was filled to the brim with them. She couldn’t help herself and tasted one, spitting the pit into the fire with very unladylike accuracy. She looked up at Ichabod. “Oh, don’t be like that. I’m old enough to enjoy myself.” She paused. “It’s the wrong time of year for them; how did you keep them fresh?”
Not wanting to bring up his private life again, Ichabod replied with a simple, “Cold storage.”
Katrina nodded. “Heather!” She called.
A middle-aged granddaughter appeared. “Yes?”
“Take these to the kitchen.” She handed off the pitcher. “Will dinner be ready soon?”
“No, I don’t think so.” She seemed uncertain as to how this would be perceived. Her grandmother might want to eat now or she might not.
“Good.” Ichabod could almost see her fill with tranquility, the way Christiaan sometimes described it. “Now go and help your cousins.” Heather was only too happy to do that.
Katrina got up from her chair, but not with the same ease she had had a moment ago. Ichabod reached over to help her, offering his hand. She took it without either gratitude or resentment; she needed help up and Ichabod was giving it to her. That was all.
He couldn’t help but notice how her skin was so much softer and how many more folds there were. As he let go he could see some of the larger veins and one or two spots that were trying to become visible. Being a witch hadn’t kept her young but it had helped her stay healthy and alive.
Katrina had gotten up by then and was smoothing out her sleeves. “You mentioned your garden’s doing well. Have you planted anything new?”
“Oh, no. I’ve been too busy trying to keep all the weeds out. Another kind of plant would do me in.”
“So how are the ones already in place?” She began to lead him out of the library in the direction of the backyard.
“Some of the berries didn’t make it through last winter but all the vegetables did. The onions are doing especially well.”
Katrina made a face. “How can you eat those things?”
Ichabod paused to consider his words. “They taste sweet if you eat them raw. Like apples,” he added for clarification.
“I swear I will never understand why you can stand to eat what you do.” Katrina passed through the ballroom to open the door to her backyard.
There were eight tables in the ballroom, each set for ten people. Ichabod knew Katrina called all her relatives to visit at least twice a year, at Easter and Christmas. But it was only early November, and it seemed all of her family was coming.
Ichabod felt a small chill slide down his spine and knew it wasn’t from the autumn air. It was obviously important for her to have all her relatives near, and the only occasions he could think of that were that important were…He stopped his line of thinking before he could entertain the possibilities. He was grateful for Katrina’s distracting talk of her roses.
“This set of bushes was planted two years ago. I ordered the seeds from France. They call it the Cardinal De Richelieu.” She paused next to one large bush. “I wish you’d come in the summer. They have a lovely scent.”
“Perhaps I could try roses as the first flower I plant,” Ichabod said. “Do you have any of its seeds?”
Katrina thought for a moment. “William would know. We could go ask him if you want.”
“Perhaps later. I wouldn’t want to be a bother.”
“Oh, it’s no trouble. He’ll be chatting with the rest of the boys.” Katrina began to lead Ichabod back into the house. Knowing it would be useless to talk her out of this, Ichabod simply followed.
Most of the men in the family were in the parlor - cousins, uncles, children and grandchildren. Only a few were sitting, with the rest just standing around; there weren’t enough chairs for everyone. There was a firm smell of tobacco that made Ichabod think of the Watch house’s break room, though he’d only been in there once.
The men were talking about something - Ichabod caught the words “Panama” and “investing overseas” - but all became quiet when Katrina entered. Two actually got up to give her their seats.
“No, don’t get up. I just want to ask Will something.” Two stepped forward. “No, not Mary’s Will, Reginald’s Will.” Mary’s Will returned to the group while the other two men sat back down. Reginald’s Will was about thirty, with strong features and red hair. He was obviously one of Brom’s grandsons.
Katrina smiled gently and began to walk back though the hallway to the backyard. Will and Ichabod followed her so they could speak with more privacy. As they shut the door behind them, the noise resumed.
Once they were outdoors, Will began talking. “How are you, Ichabod? How is Sleepy Hollow?”
Ichabod smiled, mirroring Katrina. He’d never had any kind of title among Katrina’s family; he’d always simply been Ichabod. Knowing how much business meant to this generation of Katrina’s family, he answered with, “I am well. The sheep are doing well this year. Van Garrett’s Wool is getting more business day by day.” The biggest wool and mutton business in New York State had been named for one of the richer citizens from the past century, allegedly to help the business grow. It had amused Christiaan to hear that they wanted the same ‘fortune’ as their namesake.
Will nodded, pleased with the information. He turned his head. “And you, Grandmother?”
“I am faring as well as to be expected, Will. How is Agnes?” Katrina managed to keep track of every child, every in-law, just about everyone she knew, all without consulting a ledger. Ichabod’s world had never had many people in it and he always found this skill of hers to be miraculous.
Will noticed Ichabod’s confusion and said, “My wife is expecting our second child this January.”
Katrina nodded. “Remember to ask Winifred for some potion recipes later on. You’ll find them useful when the date gets closer.
“And do you know if we have any of the Cardinal De Richelieu seed left, or were they all planted?”
Will shook his head. “I’d have to check but I think they’re all bushes now.”
“Well, then, let’s check.”
Will led the way to the tool shed. Ichabod stole a glance into the parlor by way of a window and couldn’t help but see the hatred in James’ glare… which was shared by Albert, a child of Paul.
Ichabod suppressed a shudder. He could, if he wanted, kill all the people here, even Katrina. She wasn’t as powerful as she had been, or as he was, and she’d never bothered to learn to use raw magic.
The thought gave him some comfort. But not as much as never having seen those looks would have.
Ichabod was grateful for the coziness of the tool shed, and its smell of concentrated earth - it reminded him of the Tree. He could hear Will muttering, “Tulips…violets…Wrong way…Ah!” He pulled out a small jar. “Roses, Cardinal De Richelieu. Shelved alphabetically.” He handed the jar to Katrina, who gave it to Ichabod.
“Thank me when you smell the flowers.”
A shout cut off whatever Ichabod might have said. It was Heather. “Dinner everyone!”
Katrina shrugged. “Shall we go, then?”
The pair went to the dining room, leaving Will to eat at the ballroom’s tables. The one in the dining room was the largest on the grounds, set for twenty, but there were far too many here for all to eat in that one room.
Katrina took her usual place at the head of the table. Ichabod sat on her right.
The dinner was fairly simple – a vegetable soup, pasta with a meat sauce, biscuits, fruit tarts – as a dinner for so many people should be.
There was a lot to talk about now, with Katrina. So much was happening in the world these days and there were no good newspapers up in the Hollow. If it wasn’t the condition of the South, it was Europe or South America – a canal that connected the Pacific and Atlantic? Would wonders never cease? – or new works of art or literature or philosophy. Katrina had been going through all of Longfellow’s poems; he was supposed to have a new book come out soon.
“So,” Katrina said, after having her place cleared by one of the interchangeable granddaughters, “What have you been reading?”
“I’ve been reading the tragedies of Shakespeare and finished Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography. I’ve ordered some books from Europe and am quite looking forward to them.”
“Oh?” A tart was placed in front of her but she didn’t begin on it. “What are they? Who wrote them?”
“They’re most of the books by a German named Karl Ulrichs. He writes about…” Ichabod stopped suddenly, found himself forced into silence again, having brought up a topic as taboo as Christiaan.
“He writes about what?” Katrina suddenly recognized the source of Ichabod’s embarrassment. “He writes about…” She lowered her voice, “…your kind of people?”
Ichabod blushed furiously and nodded.
“What does he say about you?”
Still blushing, Ichabod managed to say, “I read his first one - he says it’s natural and we’re born like this.”
Katrina nodded knowingly and began on her dessert. “I don’t see what all the fuss about it is. You might as well complain about being a witch.” She took a bite out of her pastry. The filling was apple.
“People have.” Ichabod lightly poked his tart with his fork. He didn’t think he could eat the dessert; he had already had quite a bit – too little by many people’s standards, but he’d never eaten a lot.
Katrina sighed. “Times are changing, Ichabod. It used to be that you could be hung or crushed for gathering herbs or speaking your mind.” She took another bite and chewed it thoughtfully. Her teeth had managed to survive and remain as a complete set. “Perhaps in a few years…”
Ichabod shook his head. “That is what has always been said.” He pushed his plate away, the tart intact. “A few years then, a few now, a few later. I do not think that the world will ever change.” He looked out over the table. The people here were Katrina’s children and close cousins. They were now talking between themselves and would sometimes point over at him and Katrina. He couldn’t hear what they were saying. He wasn’t sure he wanted to, after James and Albert. Ichabod knew people would always hate him for who and what he was but he didn’t like to think that it would be from Katrina’s family.
He looked down at his hand resting on the table. Katrina had placed hers over it.
It was so soft…
“I changed, Ichabod.”
He smiled. “You did indeed.”
Ruth was going around and taking the plates away. She paused by Ichabod, uncertain if he was going to eat his tart at all, but he waved her on.
Katrina got up once all the plates had been taken away. Everyone got up after her, to show the proper respect. They all went to the ballroom, the only place where there would be enough space for everyone. The tables had been pulled to the sides to allow for people to walk about freely.
Ichabod had gone back outside while Katrina mingled with her relatives. Some had come all the way from Georgia. Katrina felt she needed to talk with each and every one. Ichabod didn’t mind. He would have more than enough time to talk to her later.
Two children were peeking at him through one of the rosebushes, trying to hide but failing. He smiled at them. “Come on over; I won’t hurt you.” They froze, and Ichabod was worried they were Albert’s or James’s children.
They began to inch out from behind the branches and Ichabod felt his concern recede but not disappear. When they got closer and he could see their faces from the light from inside the house, Ichabod could identify them as Prudence and Joshua. He’d been to both of their christenings. The little boy was still holding the soldier he’d been given just a couple of hours ago.
Prudence was about five and seemed to be torn between fear and curiosity. She was looking up at Ichabod and it appeared she was trying to decide to ask a question.
Joshua spoke before she could make up her mind. “Mama said to thank you for the toy.”
“It was no trouble at all. I’m glad you like it.”
Hearing Ichabod speak helped Prudence get over her fright. She blurted, “Is it true?”
“Is what true?” Ichabod looked down at her, and for a moment, couldn’t tell her from her mother Cate - she’d looked just like Prudence and had looked up at him like this when she had been a little girl.
Ichabod suddenly realized just how old he was.
Prudence took a deep breath, possibly to steady herself. “That you carry around the Headless Horseman’s skull in your bag.”
The sheer impossibility of such an act - ! Ichabod was so stunned he had to ask Prudence to repeat herself so he could be sure of what he’d heard.
“I heard from my cousin Jude. He said, ‘That Ichabod? He hunted the Headless Horseman, and he carries the head around in his bag!’ Is it true? Can I see?”
Ichabod wanted to shout at the children for believing the nonsense, to deny the allegations in as loud a manner as possible, to see this Jude and his set of close relatives and to find why they would say such things about him and Christiaan, take them to his home and force them to apologize to the formerly Headless Horseman.
He remembered his days as a Constable and how often he wished to rage and scream at the sheer idiocy of his superiors, and how he had needed to be calm and rational to win the battles there.
‘I do not think that the world will ever change.’ In many ways, it didn’t.
He shook his head. “No, I don’t have the Hessian’s skull, not in my bag and not hidden anywhere. I gave it back to him years ago.”
The children seemed mildly disappointed. Prudence said, “So what do you have in your bag?”
Ichabod smiled and squatted down. Speaking in a hushed voice, as though he was a part of a conspiracy, “I can show you, but you must promise never to tell anyone what you see. Agreed?”
The two children nodded, their eyes widening.
The followed him inside to the library, where his bag was still resting. Ichabod noticed that no one had touched it; it was devoid of auras that hadn’t come from him. He couldn’t decide if that was out of respect, fear, or a lack of time.
He squatted down to the children’s eye level again. “Now, whatever you see in here, you can’t tell anyone about.” He was enjoying himself, strangely enough. He’d never had time or friends for games like this when he was a child, and he would never have children of his own.
Prudence and Joshua nodded.
As carefully as if he was performing an autopsy, Ichabod undid one buckle, then the next. The children leaned in close when he opened the bag.
“Shh!” Ichabod brought a finger to his lips. “You mustn’t tell anyone about this.”
Prudence seemed determined to not live up to her name. “A jar of seeds and some extra clothes? Is that all?”
Feigning indignance, Ichabod replied with, “Of course not.” He reached into a side pocket and held up a small piece of stone. “This is from a stream in the Western Woods of Sleepy Hollow.” He handed it to Joshua. “See how smooth it is? That’s from all the water flowing over it.”
The boy nodded. Ichabod took the stone back with a smile.
He was a witch, a user of raw, unfiltered magic, but science had never left his life, not even for a minute.
He kept smiling. “There is still something else in here…”
He pulled out a bag of dried orange peels. The children couldn’t believe their eyes; Ichabod knew how much of a delicacy citrus fruits were and doubted that these children, however affluent, had such vast quantities just for themselves.
“Enjoy these. They were for tea tomorrow, but I think you’ll like them more than your parents would.
“But don’t tell anyone what you saw. It would spoil it for everyone else.” Prudence nodded knowingly. Joshua was too occupied by the peel’s smell.
He remained in a squat even after the children had gone back outside into the night, presumably to eat the peels in the privacy of the dark.
He heard a chuckle behind him. “You would have made a wonderful father.”
Ichabod stood up, smoothing out his jacket. “I very much doubt that.”
“Oh, hush.” No relatives were flanking Katrina; she’d obviously managed to slip away unnoticed. Her lips twitched upwards, and Ichabod could see how tired she was.
That tiredness seeped into her tone. “Ichabod?”
“Would you be willing to do a favor for me? A very, very, very large favor?”
“Of course I would. What sort of a question is that?”
“One that I needed to hear the answer for instead of just knowing what it would be.” Katrina shook her head and looked at Ichabod with what looked like a combination of wistfulness and pride.
“Come with me.” She turned and led the way upstairs. She grunted a couple of times and Ichabod was afraid she would fall, but she did not. She simply cursed and increased her grip on the railing.
She had designed this house after the one her father had built, over a century ago. As far as Ichabod could tell, she’d put her bedroom in what was roughly the same spot. He’d never gone inside her old one.
Once inside, she locked the door.
“Wait, what is this? What are you-”
“I just want a little privacy.” She walked over to behind a dressing curtain and Ichabod could hear the tugging and pulling of fabric and then a harsh intake of breath.
“Ichabod, my nightgown? It’s under the pillow. Could you hand it to me? I’d get it, but my dress is off-”
Ichabod could feel his blush move from his face to his back. “Ha-hand it to you? You mean…”
“Well, I can’t get it now. I forgot to pick it up before I got in here.”
Ichabod tried to reach to the pillow, but his hands were shaking. Stalling for time, he called out again. “Well…I wouldn’t want you coming out like you are, but…Well, it’s yours, it’s touched you, your…”
Katrina’s laugh didn’t help. “You’re as prudish as you were the day I met you. Stammering over a kiss.”
The blush was down his front as well. Thinking fast, “How about I just turn around and won’t peek? I won’t turn around until you tell me to.”
A sigh. “If that would make you feel better.”
Ichabod walked to the window and threw up the lower plane of glass, grateful for the night air to cool him down.
After what seemed like a long time, he heard, “You can turn around now.”
Katrina was wearing a simple nightgown, a large, plain white piece of what looked like a very soft fabric. She’d lit the lamp on her bedside table and the light made her skin glow.
He couldn’t help blinking. He had been attracted to few women in his life, but could still tell if one of them was beautiful. Katrina was still lovely, despite all the battles time had waged against her.
She smiled at him. “Pull up a chair.” He did so as she got into bed.
Once she was comfortable, she sighed and sunk into the pillows piled high around her head. Katrina looked over at Ichabod and suddenly became very serious.
“I know how some of my family looks at you.”
Ichabod held his tongue.
Katrina continued, “I’ve seen the way they hate you, I’ve heard the stores they spread about you…about me, as well: Crazy Katrina, the witch, the mad one in the family, outliving her firstborn children…” She sighed. “James, especially, won’t admit he came from a witch. I heard he would be willing to tell a witch hunter about his own flesh and blood…”
Ichabod’s hands tightened into fits unconsciously, remembering his mother’s lifeless eyes staring at him.
Katrina’s eyes had taken on a desperate look. “Ichabod, you must swear not to tell anyone about me or my family. There are witch hunters, I heard of an execution two months ago; they would love to find out about me and my family.” Her tone was pleading. “Please don’t tell anyone. Don’t let anyone kill my children.”
“I swear I shall never tell.”
“Swear on the Hessian’s grave.”
Ichabod’s breath was taken away; he’d never heard Katrina speak of the Hessian in almost seventy years. It was incredibly important for her to utter such a word, “I swear, on the Hessian’s grave, I shall never tell anyone about you or your family.”
Katrina smiled. “Thank you, Ichabod.” She closed her eyes for a moment, and when she opened them, he could see how tired – no, how weary – she was.
“There is just one last thing I’d like you to help me do.”
He leaned in a bit closer. “What is it?”
She smiled and took one hand in his. “I’m near the end of my life. You, you won’t die. The Hessian…
“What is his name?”
Though he was very surprised she wanted to learn this piece of humanizing information, Ichabod offered it: “Christiaan.” So many taboos had been broken it seemed that one more would make no difference.
“Christiaan.” She tried it out. “It’s a good name.
“He saw to it you wouldn’t age, that you wouldn’t die. He won’t die either. But not me.
“I’m going to die tonight, Ichabod.”
The chill ran down his spine again. He suddenly realized, with perfect clarity, what the favor she wanted was.
“Can you help me, Ichabod?” She looked up at him. “Will you help me?” Her hand increased its grip.
Ichabod closed his eyes, trying to find fortitude. He opened them slowly. “Katrina, I shall do my best.”
She smiled. “That is all you have ever done.”
She took his other hand and guided it to rest upon her chest, over her heart. Ordinarily, Ichabod would have been embarrassed, but he was too focused on what he needed to do to worry about him touching Katrina’s intimate parts - in truth, this was the first time he’d ever touched this part of a woman.
Ichabod could feel Katrina’s heart beating and could hear her steady breathing. He looked down at her.
For a moment, he could see all of her that he had ever known: The great-grandmother smiling at him in the library, the grandmother attending christenings and inviting him for her birthday, the mother at her second wedding, the lady who was moved to tears when she found out who he loved, the young woman who was so amazed at New York City…
… Most of all, he saw the little girl, the young daughter of a wealthy landowner, who had been the target of a madwoman, who had made potions to help him heal, who had followed him into the Western Woods, who had given him a kiss even when she had not known his name.
He saw Katrina in all her life.
He closed his eyes and used her heartbeat as a guide. He moved his awareness from his surroundings to Katrina’s body, and from there, into and around her heart. He could feel it, cradling it, and could see how hard it now had to work to beat.
He felt another awareness brush his own, and he moved out to embrace it. Katrina was trying to help him help her.
Ichabod could feel her heart beating steadily.
There…don’t hurt her…don’t shock her…Gently, now, gently…
He could feel her heartbeat, still steady, slowing down.
He could feel Katrina’s awareness slipping away from his own, down into the great unknown, the sleep of death, what dreams may come who knew? Who could know?
“I love you,” Ichabod whispered, and he somehow knew she had heard him, and he felt her awareness return for a moment, and he knew she loved him back.
Then it was gone, slipping away again, falling away from the world …
Her hand loosened its grip and fell to the bed.
Her heartbeat was slow, now, so very slow…
He opened his eyes and withdrew his hands from her body. He stood up and retuned the chair to the desk.
He arranged Katrina’s hands so that they folded over her chest instead of leaving them to lie at her sides.
He turned off the lamp and closed the window.
He paused, then, in front of the door, and then unlocked it and went out into the house.
He walked down the hallway and down the stairs and into the ballroom. He made no sound, but everyone turned to look at him. He expected he was paler than usual.
Gathering his courage, he spoke in as normal a tone as he could.
“Katrina is dead.”
With that, Ichabod fainted.
Ichabod returned to awareness in the living room, lying on a couch. Someone had been kind enough to provide pillows and remove his shoes, which were resting at the foot of the couch.
He looked around the room, judging by the light coming from the window that it was still night. The clock told him only a couple of hours had passed.
They would be tending to her body, now.
Ichabod got up, put on his shoes, and went to find a bathroom. Christiaan had managed to get running water inside the Tree, but it always felt strange to use. Ichabod had no idea where the water came from and where it went to, and he never intended to ask. It was easier here, where things were solid and real.
The bathroom was the third door on the left in the hallway. He began to wash his hands and face in the sink.
As he was drying off his neck – he would have a bath later, but this was sufficient for now – he heard a tapping on the door.
He opened it up. “I’m sorry if-”
“Oh, you damn well better be sorry.” Ichabod took a step back. James was brandishing no weapons or spells but his tone conveyed more threats than either of the two commodities could produce. “You killed my grandmother, you fiend. You witch, I’ve watched you all my life and I know what you are.” He was quiet, and Ichabod couldn’t tell if it was from anger or concern not to wake his children. “You steal other’s lives so you’ll live forever. I know better than to fall prey to what you are, witch!” Ichabod had backed up to the wall and was trying to get even farther away. James continued to rage, “Tonight everyone here will see you really are-”
James turned, too surprised to do otherwise. Ichabod craned his neck to see who was coming to help him.
Liam was Brom’s second son and a powerful witch in his own right. Ichabod had helped in his training when he was younger and knew him well.
“Everyone will see what Ichabod did for our Grandmother? You didn’t hear about the letter she wrote, did you?” Liam paused for a moment as pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket and thrust it at James. “She made twenty copies. One’s for you.”
James glared. This was probably the last place he wanted to be, between two witches. Ichabod began to breathe again.
James tore the letter out of Liam’s hand and began to read. His glare continued for a moment, but then began to dissolve.
A strange croak exited his mouth.
“Come on, Ichabod,” Liam glanced at his cousin. “Let him read in privacy.”
James was sitting on the toilet so he wouldn’t collapse onto the floor and was making choking sounds.
Ichabod left the bathroom gratefully. In the hall, he asked Liam what the letter said.
“It said…well, she wrote one letter just for you.” He took a piece of paper, sealed with wax, from his breast pocket. The one he’d given James had had no seal, and its paper hadn’t been as good as this.
Ichabod broke the seal and began reading.
My dearest friend Ichabod Crane,
I know that if you are reading this I am dead. I know that if I am dead you will have helped me die.
This is not a copy of the other letter I wrote. Those were for the rest of the family to tell them to not lay blame on you.
I told them I knew I would die and that you had helped me so that I would feel no pain. I told my prodigal sons and daughters that they should not put the blame for it on your shoulders, nor should they put it on mine. The only blame to be found here is time, and that no one can call into question.
I have seen myself grow old and wither while you remained as you always have. I hold no bitterness towards you for that. Perhaps a bit of envy, but when I remember how you achieved your immortality I do not mind my inevitable end.
Do you remember when we went to the theater and we had to say you were my son?
It has been seventy-eight years since we met but it seems we still are the same, despite outward appearances. I could never change you, not in whom you love or how you practice magic. You never could cure me of my stubbornness or my traditions, however silly they may have seemed.
I shall miss you. My world will be much lessened without you in it.
I love you, Ichabod, as much as anyone can love another.
Ichabod’s hands were shaking when he finished reading. He was leaning against the wall for support.
Liam was standing a little away from him, not wanting to intrude. When he saw that Ichabod was done he walked over to him. “Are you all right?”
Ichabod swallowed twice. “May I have a drink of water?”
“Sure. Kitchen’s this way.” Liam led the way through the labyrinth of rooms to the kitchen. The jug of cherries was on a counter, still covered.
Ichabod stared at it as he sipped water from a cup made out of glass. He could remember when only kings and rich men had had cups made out of glass, and here he was, lowborn and still poor, drinking out of what was once a symbol of immense social standing.
The world did change.
But why like this?
Katrina had known he would help her die. She had planned her death out well. Yet she seemed to think she was going on a long journey, not dying, and she would come back. And she couldn’t.
He stared at the pitcher for what he found was almost three hours when the granddaughters and nieces came into the kitchen and told him they’d need him to leave so they could make breakfast. The water level in his glass had only changed a tiny bit.
“Fine, fine, I won’t be a bother.” He left quickly, walking into the library.
He wasn’t all that surprised to see that his bag still had no auras. He sat down on the couch.
He saw people walking about the house, and how about two-thirds took a detour around the library instead of walking through it. He could tell that some were scared and some didn’t want to anger him.
Ichabod didn’t respond to the call for breakfast; he didn’t think he could eat anything. He wasn’t hungry anyway.
At one o’clock that afternoon he finally left the library. Tracy, one of Katrina’s favorite grandsons, had come in with a smaller man following.
“Ichabod, this is Mr. Schmidt. He’s my grandmother’s lawyer and we called him this morning; we’d like him present when we read the will.”
Ichabod nodded. “I expect you want me there as well.”
Tracy nodded, though he was a bit surprised by Ichabod’s bluntness when he was usually very polite.
“Where will we be hearing it?”
“In the dining room.”
“Very well then.” Ichabod showed no emotion as he got up, not even annoyance. “Let us proceed.”
They did so. Ichabod wasn’t surprised to see Peter, Paul, Sarah, and Brom sitting around the table, along with Katrina’s closer cousins. They sat the way they had last night at dinner.
He took the seat he had occupied. Mr. Schmidt sat at the head. Ichabod felt nothing seeing that, not even mild irritation.
Mr. Schmidt opened up his briefcase and cleared his throat. “Now, we’ll begin the reading.” There was a shuffle of papers as he searched for the right one.
Ichabod nodded; it was very practical of Katrina to arrange her testaments beforehand.
Mr. Schmidt put on a small pair of glasses and began to read. “The last will and testament of Katrina Walker, as witnessed by Elizabeth Blake and Peter Reilly...”
A great deal of what he spoke about was accountability and terms Ichabod wasn’t familiar with. When he had been a constable he had been employed to uphold the law, not to interpret it, and by now the laws had changed so much what he knew was almost useless.
Ichabod did pay attention when the will got to the part about the inheritance. Some decisions - Sarah getting the house in the city? Why not Paul, or Isabelle? - caused some confusion and arguments, but they couldn’t be challenged. It had been decided by someone that none of them could argue with.
Not even getting the house and grounds in Sleepy Hollow could give Ichabod any emotion other than mild amusement, and that was only from hearing that it had been left to ‘Zachariah Abramson,’ a false person he had created for legal matters a decade ago at Katrina’s insistence.
When the reading was over, he noticed there were even more people in the house now. Katrina’s friends had been contacted and while most hadn’t been able to come to New York, all would attend the wake.
It was a testament to Katrina’s social skills that just a small fraction of her friend s could double the number of people at her house.
Not her house. Not anymore.
Ichabod had wandered outside to escape all the stares and questions. He closed his eyes and leaned his head against the wall.
He could feel the sunlight, but it was muted by the clouds, the time of day, and the cold of the season. He wondered if aging was like this - knowing past sensations but not being able to feel them anymore. There was warmth in the world but you couldn’t get any more of it.
The wake was held at one of the churches downtown the next morning.
Once he was seated, Ichabod calculated that this was the first time he’d been in a church in four years. It was a nice one, he supposed. He had only been to a few and at those there had been only a fraction of the people here. Gideon’s was the closest to this. He’d thought Ichabod was dead, so he hadn’t been invited. Ichabod had hid in the back, and acted as a person who had just wandered into the service. There was no way he’d be allowed inside if the people knew who he really was.
Ichabod wondered how many more funerals he would attend, and how many of those would have an invitation.
It occurred to him that Christiaan had never had a funeral and perhaps he’d like one. Ichabod dismissed the black humor, knowing he was using to try to stay level-headed.
He was called up to speak, eventually. Once up on the pulpit, he wondered what to do.
He wanted to run down to the coffin, rip it open, and embrace the reminder of is friend. Infuse life and youth back into her, bring her back, make her young so he would have her in his life again.
He wiped away a tear, knowing that such a feat would not only be possible for him but highly dangerous for Katrina’s spirit.
What to say?
“Katrina…was a lovely woman when I first met her…” There were some people here who knew what he was, but many who didn’t. “…She wasn’t a little girl, but she had the spirit of one. She took joy in her life, in the life of her relatives and children…There were many times I wished I had been closer to her these last few years…”
What else was there that he could say? “She was one of my greatest friends, and I shall miss her.”
He stepped down off the pulpit and made his way back to his seat, not looking at the coffin or at the people he knew were staring at him.
He remained quiet for the rest of the service, and didn’t look up to see the coffin begin its journey outside. He kept his head down as he walked and stood with the rest of the mourners, listened to the priest read the final words of the ceremony. Handfuls of dust and soil were thrown into the grave, so that the people might forget their loss by burying it.
Ichabod reached into his coat pocket and felt the stone rest in his palm. It was a part of the Hollow that he could use to contact Christiaan, make it easier for Christiaan to find him, or return home quickly.
He looked down at the coffin, remembering Katrina’s laugh.
You will never return to your old home, he thought, but here is a reminder of it, that you will not forget it.
He tossed the stone into the grave and saw a cloud of dust rise from its impact.
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.
He pushed though the crowd, once again not looking into anyone’s face. Some people stood aside for him, and he did not know how many acted out of fear.
He stopped at the edge of the cemetery, glad for the open air and semblance of privacy. He looked out over the gravestones and wondered if his name would ever grace one.
Liam was the first to come near him. He explained that the services were over and that they would be returning to the house.
Ichabod wasn’t approached by anyone else that day, and he was glad for that.
There was nothing he wanted to say.
Christiaan could not stop pacing.
Ichabod had said he would be gone for four days, five at most. But six days had gone by since Ichabod had left, and he had given no sign of returning.
He didn’t want to think what could happen to Ichabod when he couldn’t be close to him or sense him. An attack, an old enemy, an accident, sickness – who could know? Anything could happen to Ichabod.
He knew Ichabod wanted time with his friend and with other people, but hated to give it. Since the Oneidans had attacked his lover, he hated to give it.
They had kidnapped Ichabod, kept him drugged on laudanum and hidden inside a church for almost two months, gaining Christiaan’s service in exchange for not killing him.
He hadn’t let Ichabod outside of the Woods for almost a year, and hadn’t let him go beyond the township a year after that. He still hated to let Ichabod go where he couldn’t see him, however much magic he could wield now. He was still mortal. And however much he could act a hermit, he genuinely wanted time with other people.
Wanting time with others was all well and good, but six days were six days.
At that thought, Christiaan stopped pacing and stripped off his clothes. His armor appeared on his body a moment later, axes and sword at the ready. He began to walk outside, calling to Daredevil as he went.
Once saddled, he began to ride south, in the direction of New York City.
As he rode, he began to draw power to erect a barrier around the Woods. He had done it several times before, the first being after the Lady had stolen his skull. When he was outside the Woods, on the side of a road, he put the barrier in place.
It was the color of pale alabaster, constantly shifting in meaningless patterns. No one could see it but him, though almost anything with enough sense could pick up on its presence and stay away from it.
He had once seen a deer, panicked and crazed, try to run through the first barrier.
There hadn’t been enough of it left to fill a teacup.
Satisfied that his home was protected, he began to ride to the city in earnest. Ichabod kept saying that modern carriages could make the journey from the Hollow to New York in a day.
Daredevil could top that easily.
As he went, Christiaan began to spread out his awareness to find Ichabod. He couldn’t see him clearly but had a general idea of where he would be.
As he got closer to the city, he realized that the piece of the Hollow Ichabod carried wasn’t with him. It was almost invisible and he wondered why, and then realized it was because the stone was lying in holy ground.
Why had Ichabod tossed aside the stone? Why wasn’t he carrying it with him, like he’d been asked? Like he’d been told?
Did he not want to be found?
Christiaan dug his spurs into Daredevil’s sides, urging his horse to go faster.
He was finally close enough to clearly see Ichabod’s feelings. They were…
They weren’t moving.
Feelings always moved. Even when Ichabod was making a drawing or a delicate potion and most of his feelings were still from concentration, there were pieces that moved. Even when he was asleep, his feelings moved, though they did so slowly.
What was wrong?
He didn’t slow at all, not even when he entered the city and people and horses had to make way for him. He barreled through the streets, careful to avoid anyone crossing his path – he cared little for what might happen to them, but to harm one might draw excessive attention to himself, and cause a delay in his search.
Had he the time, he would have loved to wander about the city and see everything in it: buildings too tall to stand, so many people for such a small space, clothes too outlandish for anyone to wear, smells and sounds wholly new to his existence.
But he had no time for that, no time for wonder. All he had time to see were glimpses of feelings as he raced down the city’s streets.
He finally slowed Daredevil when they got out of the city proper and into the houses that stood alone, like his old home in Marburg. Ichabod had said the little girl lived in a house like this, and he didn’t want to disturb her, knowing how close she and Ichabod were to each other.
He had slowed to an easy trot when he turned a corner and saw Ichabod standing at the side of the road, waiting for him.
It was all Christiaan could do to not jump off Daredevil and run up and embrace his lover. But he knew how much he valued propriety, and instead dismounted and walked up to him, holding Daredevil’s reins in one hand.
He spoke first. “You were supposed to be home yesterday.”
Ichabod responded calmly. “I am aware of that, and I apologize for not informing you I would be staying longer than I had anticipated. I was unavoidably detained.”
Christiaan said nothing. You were supposed to be home yesterday.
Ichabod provided clarification in the same neutral tone. “Katrina’s funeral was just four days ago. I have been helping her family organize and send off her belongings.” A slow creak caused both men to turn their heads to look at the house.
There were almost two dozen people watching them from the front windows, faces pressed against the glass, trying to get a glimpse of what was outside. The younger faces kept being replaced by other young faces, while the older ones simply stayed where they were. The feelings were a mix of fear, wonder, apprehension, delight, disgust, jealousy, and confusion.
Ichabod sighed. “If you will provide me another hour, I will have the time to get my affairs in order so that I might return home.”
Ichabod said nothing as he turned and went up the path to the house. The group’s feelings shifted to add malice and admiration.
He let Daredevil’s reins fall from his hand. The horse didn’t leave his master, though he did trot up and down the road every so often, occasionally nibbling at some grass.
Christiaan clasped his hands behind his back, under his cape, and waited. The older faces left after a while, but the younger ones remained. He never gave them anything to watch, not even a blink of his eyes or the rising of his chest to take in breath.
The emotions inside the house swirled around, rising and falling with many shades of rage and fear and anger. Eventually, Ichabod exited the house, bag in hand. Someone from inside closed the door behind him. The feelings in the house now held disappointment, sadness, and glee. There were none he could see around Ichabod.
Nothing twisted, nothing swirled, nothing shifted, nothing moved. He usually felt annoyance at riding on a horse and apprehension of Daredevil, but neither was visible.
The ride home was more sedate than the frantic race to the city, but was still fast. It was mid-afternoon when the two men approached the Hollow. Christiaan dissolved the barrier when they got closer and opened the door to the Tree when they were a few minutes away from it.
Ichabod had said nothing and shown no feelings during the entire ride. He dismounted awkwardly, as he almost always did, and after taking off his shoes in the front foyer, walked to the bathroom.
Christiaan sent Daredevil away as he walked to the bedroom, gathering the clothing he had tossed aside. When he had collected all the articles, he removed his armor and weapons and put the fabrics back on. Ichabod didn’t like it when he ‘pranced about in full battle regalia.’
He heard the frshhlll of the toilet being flushed and the running of tap water. He waited until Ichabod came into the bedroom to begin to talk. He didn’t know what to say in times like this, having little experience in the area, but felt Ichabod would appreciate the effort.
“Did you have a good time?”
Ichabod didn’t look at him. “I can say yes to that.”
What does that mean? Ichabod didn’t clarify, and Christiaan didn’t like to press. He tried again. “How is her family?”
“It is doing well.” He still wouldn’t look at his lover.
It is not working. How to make it work?
“How are you?”
This time Ichabod looked at him. “Can’t you see for yourself?”
“Yes.” He could but there was nothing to see right now. There was a deep, thick cover on top of Ichabod’s feelings, like ice on a lake, trapping them deep inside.
“Well, there you are.”
That night, Ichabod lay in bed alone, in the darkness, lost in his mind.
If Christiaan had been watching, he would have seen feelings slowly rise up and stir around below the surface’s stillness. If he had been there, he would have held Ichabod gently, comforted him, encouraged the waves of feeling to engulf his lover.
But he wasn’t there. He was in the library because Ichabod had asked to spend the night alone.
He had also agreed not to look inside his bag. The jar of seeds and the documents giving him ownership of the Van Tassel manor remained untouched.
Ichabod stared out into the darkness.
He remembered James inside the house after the funeral, shouting and roaring, accusing Ichabod of murder in front of dozens of people. Lucy, a granddaughter, had used a slight charm to calm him, and the rest had said he’d had far too much to drink.
He had lost a lot of face with his grandmother’s friends, and hated Ichabod all the more for that.
The day Christiaan had come, after seeing the Hessian in the flesh for the first time – the first time for any of the living family – it had been too much. James and the branch of the family he led had rallied against their kin, clamoring that they would call the witch hunters, the priests, the exorcists, the police. The rest of the family, led by Paul and Peter, was steadfast against their hateful blood, their power strong but nullified by threat of hunters.
Ichabod had acted as the nullifier to James’ faction, using his influence and “power over the Hessian” to keep the group at bay. He had no idea how long the truce he had helped create would last.
“We’ll win in the end,” James had said. “We’ll win. Not you murderers. Us. The ones you called freaks.”
Ichabod had spoken quietly, picking out his words with great care. He had asked James if he wanted to live to see that day, saying he could arrange for any possibility he could want.
He had seen naked fear in James’ face, and the rage and hate shared by all. Even in the smallest children.
He remembered looking over Katrina’s coffin, feeling nothing for his lost friend.
The feelings settled under the surface, returning to stillness.
The winter in Sleepy Hollow had come late and passed quickly. Some people muttered about it, saying that it would cause a hotter summer. More said that it was bound to happen someday and that they should be grateful for the extra time given to their crops. In the end, they all moved on, not wondering if there was some reason for the unusually short season.
The reason had been to give Ichabod a reason and purpose to feel again.
Christiaan knew Ichabod wasn’t particularly fond of winter, and had hoped that speeding it along would help him feel again. Christiaan had hoped that the early blooms would cheer Ichabod, that the cardinals coming back to their homes would give him a smile again. But he had simply nodded and looked away, nothing stirring inside of him. For the past four months, he had displayed no emotions and none had broken to the surface.
He weeded in his garden without gloves for hours, sometimes coming home with fingernails cracked and bleeding. He had spent all but three nights alone in their bedroom, and those three only because Christiaan had come in when Ichabod was asleep. He ate even less than usual, barely half of what he had eaten before. He spend a great deal of time in the library, poring over books Christiaan could not read, not putting them down until his eyes were shot through with veins.
A slow death is still a death.
Christiaan looked at the small lake. This was the first place he had deliberately exerted his influence over, as opposed to creating a more widespread effect. It had thawed just recently and was the first body of water in the Woods to do so.
He carefully took off his boots, his shirt, his pants. He folded each piece of his clothing carefully and placed it on the grassy bank. He knew no one would find him. The lake was deep inside the Woods, no paths led to it, and it was as well-hidden as Ichabod’s garden. No one could find him here.
Once free of his garments, he began to walk into the water. He didn’t mind the cold nipping at his toes, though he noticed it. The water splashed over him, cool and clean. It lapped over his ankles, his thighs, his knees.
He didn’t stop until the water was around his hips, at which point he dove under.
He swam just under the surface, turning over to look at the sun through the water. He turned and swam down a bit father and looked up again. He smiled; the rays were more beautiful from down below. He could look at them as long as he liked; he had no need for air.
Christiaan began to make a lazy spiral downward, fish and frogs dashing out of his way. He idly chased a large pike for a few minutes, occasionally getting close enough to touch it. When he bored with that, he returned to swimming to the bottom of the lake. Once there, he settled in the silt, curled up like a baby. He would do this when he wanted a private place to think, as he did now.
The coolness of the water and its weight all around him was soothing and comforting. It wasn’t completely still: small currents moved over him, caressing his skin, teasing his hair. He moved out his hand, pressing it against the water, and felt it move to accommodate him.
He considered Ichabod, his lack of feelings, his stillness.
He had never pressed against Ichabod, thinking he would move again on his own without any sort of influence, that he would thaw.
He realized he should have known better than to leave Ichabod alone. He never spent a great deal of time with others, even when he was with them – he lived inside his head most of the time, not leaving it unless there was an outside force pressing him to do so. The little girl had been one. He was another.
Christiaan realized that if he wanted to make Ichabod feel, he would have to do something about it.
He pushed off from the bottom of the lake and swam back to shore. He walked out and lay down on the grass, letting the sun dry him off before he put his clothing back on.
He planned what he could say to Ichabod, what words he might use as a force against his lover’s stillness.
That night Christiaan watched Ichabod eat his dinner of potatoes and herbs. He rarely did that, as both men found it vaguely discomforting, but Ichabod seemed to pay no attention to him, as though ignoring him would make him go away.
After a few minutes, he politely addressed his lover. “I would appreciate it if you would leave while I was eating my dinner.”
Christiaan nodded to show he understood the request.
When it was obvious he wasn’t leaving, Ichabod spoke again. “Would you please leave while I finish my dinner?”
“I would prefer not to.” His tone was as polite as Ichabod’s.
“I see.” Ichabod’s voice was as flat as his emotions, and he returned to ignoring Christiaan while he finished his meal.
Ichabod could hide annoyance well, but only if one couldn’t actually see his emotions.
And Ichabod could get annoyed quite easily.
When he finished, he began to collect dishes and utensils, but Christiaan stepped in before he could do so, gathering them up to clean in the kitchen.
A spark of anger– no more, no less – surfaced inside Ichabod.
Ah. Good. Treating him like a small child that couldn’t be let out of its parent’s sight or be trusted with something in their hands always bothered him.
“I am capable of cleaning up without your assistance.” There was no timbre to his voice, though it did shiver inside his chest. Christiaan nodded once again as he reached to pick up Ichabod’s cup.
Ichabod’s hand shot out and his fingers wrapped around it before Christiaan could take it. The older man shrugged and went to clean what he had collected.
Inside his head, Christiaan smiled. Push against someone and they will push back.
Ichabod followed him to the kitchen, placing his cup next to the sink before leaving for the library.
Christiaan waited until Ichabod was inside the library before following him. He found Ichabod looking at the shelf containing the French books.
“Why aren’t you cleaning the dishes?”
“I can clean them while you sleep.”
“If you will not clean them now, I shall do so.”
“No, you do not need to. I shall clean them.” He left, smiling inside his head again.
When he returned to the library, all the dishes cleaned and dried, Ichabod was reading something from a small blue book, sitting in his favorite chair.
“Did you remember to dry them off?” Ichabod didn’t look up.
Christiaan nodded. After a moment, Ichabod asked another question: “Well?” Christiaan nodded again.
The spark flared up again. “I would like to know if you took your time in cleaning the dishes.”
Christiaan smiled visibly. “Yes.”
Ichabod sighed. “Thank you.”
A breeze of coolness surfaced inside the library and drifted off.
He had done nothing to Ichabod these past few months, and knew that while he shouldn’t make up for lost time, he should begin as soon as he could.
He watched Ichabod read.
Ichabod didn’t look up.
Before, he had left Ichabod completely alone, not knowing how to deal with the stillness. He still didn’t quite know if this would be the best way, but he knew it would work. It would incite emotions inside Ichabod that would have no choice but to surface, and that was what Christiaan wanted.
When Ichabod finally got up and replaced the book, Christiaan spoke. “I’ll draw up a bath.” The water began flowing as he finished the sentence and he left before Ichabod could protest.
The bathtub was full and the water was the exact temperature Ichabod liked by the time he reached the bathroom. Christiaan was waiting inside of it for him.
“You do not need to mollycoddle me.” The word was unfamiliar to Christiaan, but the meaning was clear.
“I have no choice in the matter,” he responded gently.
Ichabod crossed his arms over his chest. “What do you mean by that?” A ripple that was barely perceptible, but still more than a spark.
Christiaan’s tone remained gentle. “You are not capable of caring for yourself now.”
Ichabod blinked. “I am perfectly capable –”
“You are not acting in a healthy manner.”
“What is a healthy manner?” Ice was in his tone, though none was in his emotions.
Christiaan answered plainly, “You are not feeling.” He did his best to keep his voice soft, calm, to act as though Ichabod was just a small child who didn’t know.
Ichabod’s eyes focused on Christiaan’s. “I expect you can tell?”
Christiaan crossed his arms, mirroring Ichabod. “Yes. And I would prefer it if you would stop acting this way.”
Ichabod’s eyes didn’t move. “I would prefer it if you would stop acting this way.”
Christiaan smiled inwardly. A larger ripple this time. “What way would that be?”
“Treating me as though I am incapable of doing so.” His voice was quiet, like a sword inside a scabbard.
“But you are not, so I must.” He used the same soft tone he had used a moment ago.
“You must not do anything. I can care for myself.” The sword was unsheathing. Good.
“You cannot.” He kept his tone firm, speaking like a parent once again.
Ichabod’s eyes widened. “What makes you think I can’t?”
“If you could, then you would be healthy now,” Christiaan pointed out.
“Why should I listen to you about health?” Ichabod stared for a moment and turned to leave. “I shall go to bed now. I would like to spend the night with some privacy, if possible.” He took two steps before stopping. “And stop watching me.” He did sound like a child, petulant and self-secure.
Ichabod spun about, though he did so with care. “Why not?”
“I’m looking for you.”
Confusion boiled up, though not out. “I’m right here.”
“You’re not all here.”
“Oh?” Ichabod didn’t have to wait long for clarification.
“Your feelings are gone.”
Haughtiness – more deeply colored than pride – was lurking under the surface around Ichabod’s eyes. “And what is wrong with that?”
“You need to feel.” Each word was lain down with equal force.
“Why?” The color around Ichabod deepened, though it was still under the surface.
“Because.” That was all there was to it. People felt, and Ichabod was a person, so he must feel. There was no justification needed, as it justified itself.
Ichabod glared. “You have seen this for four months and you have done nothing about it yet?”
Of course he knows how long he has not been feeling. It is himself, after all. “I thought you would change on your own.”
“I see. As I have not changed, you have taken it upon yourself to change me.” His sounds were exact and sharp, as they so often were when he was angry. The clouds signaling that were swirling around, gaining strength. “Are you sure this is the best course of action?”
Amusement and contempt were creeping slowly out. “Then why are you doing it?”
“Because you need to feel.” Christiaan did his best to sound calm and all-knowing, fully aware Ichabod would hate that.
Ichabod slowly drew in a breath. “I will not ask why I need to feel, but I will ask why you think that is so.”
“Living people feel.”
Ichabod’s tone was ice, cold enough to burn. “Then why are you telling me how to live my life?”
Christiaan blinked. How could he say such a thing? Keeping his tone the same as before, “You cannot live it alone.”
“I have done so before.” Pride was skirting around the far edges of Ichabod, and something close to hate was there as well, clear as the bathwater. “Who are you to tell me how to live? I have lived far longer than you.”
The shock of that almost toppled Christiaan, and he needed to take a step back. Spikes were coming from Ichabod now, and he had no wish to touch them. He stepped forward, speaking with more force. “You need to stop this –”
Ichabod met his step, and took another, the spikes quivering, the hate almost broken out. “I need to give up my grief? I need to forget about her simply because she is dead and buried?” Anger and sadness were mixing, and Ichabod didn’t back down. “Should I forget you, then? The two of you share so many qualities now.”
Noticing the reaction his words had received, Ichabod continued, amusement playing on his face. “It occurs to me that you never had a funeral. Perhaps we could arrange for one. We could find you a proper headstone instead of a sword, pick out a nice spot in the churchyard –”
Christiaan cut in, glaring, hissing. “You have no right to say such things.”
Ichabod didn’t move. “Yes, I do.”
The force of Christiaan’s hand striking Ichabod’s cheek staggered the smaller man, and though the blow was restrained, it knocked him to the wall. He slid to the floor and bruises appeared a moment later.
Christiaan shook with rage and shock, not willing to believe what he had just done. He knelt and swept Ichabod up in his arms, holding him tightly, not looking at his face.
[So sorry, so sorry, I’m so sorry…] He closed his eyes tightly, the unfamiliar feeling of moisture gathering under his lids.
At first, he didn’t notice that Ichabod was shaking.
He looked down at Ichabod, and saw the cracks in the surface, and saw them split open and his feelings escape in a gigantic wave, clearing away everything in their path, washing over Ichabod, cleaning him.
Ichabod blinked twice and tears began to leave his eyes, slowly at first, and then spilled out. He burrowed his face in Christiaan’s shoulder as he shook, tears spilling from his eyes, sobs and croaks coming from his throat.
The sheer power of the feelings, so long imprisoned, was almost pounding into Christiaan, and under their assault he felt his own state change, his sadness grow because of Ichabod’s. He clenched his hands on Ichabod’s body for the comfort the touch brought him, murmuring his sorrows without quite knowing what he was saying.
He had no idea how long Ichabod shuddered and sobbed and wept, but eventually the torrent of feeling slowed down to something closer to Ichabod’s normal state. He was still shivering.
[Shh. It’s okay. I’m here with you.] Christiaan stroked Ichabod’s hair to remind him of that. [It was good for you to cry.]
He looked more carefully at Ichabod and saw how weary and tired he was, both in body and mind.
[How about you take that bath now? It’s still warm, but I can make it cooler if you want.]
Ichabod nodded, “That would be nice.” He was quiet, as though he didn’t trust his voice. He pushed away from Christiaan and began to undress.
Once inside the bathtub, he let out a sigh and slid back until only his face was above water. Christiaan sat with his arms folded on the rim and his chin resting on them.
Ichabod slid under the water, bubbles coming from his mouth. Christiaan smiled at that, remembering how he used to do that when he was younger.
He watched Ichabod’s feelings move around for the first time in so long, almost becoming part of the water that surrounded him.
He quietly began to sing a song he remembered from his childhood, when his eldest sister would put him to bed.
[Sleep, baby, sleep…] It had been more than a century since he had heard the words, but he found he remembered them all. [Lovely dreams in showers fall. Sleep, baby, sleep…]
Ichabod pushed his head out of the bath, water dripping from his hair. He smiled faintly, the way people would smile after a battle: My friends are dead and I live. I celebrate for myself and mourn for them.
Christiaan leaned over and kissed Ichabod on the forehead. [I missed you.]
Ichabod tilted his head to kiss Christiaan on the lips. “I suppose I missed myself.” He shook his head. “I…” He hesitated and began to speak again. “Katrina meant so much to me. She was so much a part of my world, just always being there. I knew she would die eventually but I never thought that it would happen so soon, or at all. She lived so long I just thought she would live forever.”
He leaned back to look at the ceiling. “She…she had done so much for so many, it seemed wrong that she die. She had given so much. It seemed wrong to me that she was gone and I was here. It doesn’t make sense, but…” He sighed and looked down at his hands. “I felt like I would be giving her up for good if I let my feelings go. If I were to give up my grief for her and move on I would dishonor her memory.”
Christiaan nodded, not knowing what to say. Ichabod accepted his silence and went back to soaking himself.
When he was done with the bath and had pulled the plug, he asked, “What songs was that?”
Switching to English, Christiaan answered. “It’s something my sister used to sing to me.”
“Not your mother?”
Christiaan shook his head. “I never knew her. She died giving birth to me.”
Ichabod didn’t know what to say to that. He had never asked about Christiaan’s family or history, and any tidbits he dropped were pounced upon when given. But he knew better than to ask about this.
So instead he took Christiaan’s hand in his own. “Spend the night in the bedroom.”
They didn’t sleep together in either sense of the term. Christiaan spent the night wrapped around Ichabod, holding him gently while he slept.
The ride had been deliberately sedate, though Daredevil still made it to New York by noon. Gunpowder, moving faster in death than he ever had in life, was close behind.
The churchyard loomed in front of them. Christiaan dismounted first to help Ichabod down.
“Can you see where it is from here?”
“I can feel where it is.”
Ichabod nodded. “Ah. The stone.”
Christiaan gestured to the front gate. Ichabod took the suggestion to heart and made his way over to Katrina’s grave.
He spoke to her, telling her what he had done these past few months and why and how much he missed her and that he would do his best to honor her memory. He told her about the family and what James had said and what they had threatened to do, and how the rest of her family had decided not to treat the other non-witches the same way, and would do their best to improve relations with the other relatives. He asked her what she would think of the state the South was in now, and what had been going on while he was inside himself, and how she would have to ask him about the world’s affairs now.
When he was finally done speaking, he laid a small bouquet of roses on her grave, with the promise that he would bring the Cardinal De Richelieu as soon as he had some blooms.
Christiaan was waiting for Ichabod outside the churchyard. Ichabod glanced around to make sure no one was around and pushed up on his toes to give his lover a small kiss on his cheek. “Thank you for taking me here.”
“You are welcome.” He helped Ichabod saddle up, and the two men began to ride to their home.
In 1906, the Van Tassel Manor House was donated to the government’s new national landmarks project by one “Zachariah Abramson.” It was in marvelous condition, and in the coming decades became a minor tourist attraction.
Katrina’s descendents bore fewer and fewer witch children each year, until there were none left to speak of. It saddened Ichabod deeply that James had won out in the end, though it cheered him to know he had only won a Pyrrhic victory. The family continued to put full stock behind magic and witchcraft, even if it couldn’t use either.
Ichabod did not plant the roses for many years; he always felt too nervous to make the attempt. He finally planted them in 1917.
The quotes "the great unknown, the sleep of death, what dreams may come" and "and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest" are both from William Shakespeare's play Hamlet. The first quote is from Act Three, Scene One, and the second is from Act Five, Scene Two.
Karl Heinrich Ulrichs was one of the first modern gay rights activists. He published his first of twelve short books/pamphlets about sexuality and civil rights in 1864. I do not know if any of his works were translated into English and sold in America, but it is entirely possible. A good source of information about him is this site, as is the book A Natural History Of Homosexuality by Francis Mark Mondimore.
(please check out the links below for the site)
The lullaby the Hessian sings is "Schlaf, Kindlein, Schlaf", which translates to "Sleep, Baby, Sleep." I do not know how old it is, but it seemed very appropriate for this piece. The full lyrics, in both English and German, can be found here.
Karl Ulrichs - Bigoraphy
Sleep Baby Sleep - Lyrics