Charlotte tells Bran what she’s been up to and his reaction is not what she expects.

For past episodes of Victorian Mistress see the Weekly Serial page.

the-knife-in-the-bookcaseLondon – 1840

Bran came into the library, looked at the knife protruding from the bookcase and said, ‘The newspapers are having fun with the “grisly murder”.’ He sat down at the reading table opposite me.

Brave, I thought, given where my knife had ended up and he was sitting the trajectory. I was sitting surrounded by tools working on a mechanised forearm sheath for my knife, but if he thought it at all odd he didn’t even give me a funny look.

‘I’d hardly call a knife to the heart grisly,’ I muttered, tightening a tiny screw.

‘Read about it?’

‘No,’ I said.

He lowered the newspaper and considered me, his expression was thoughtful but neutral.

‘If there was any justice in the world men like Thompson would be dancing from the end of a rope.’

‘You don’t have to justify yourself.’

I looked up.

‘I know you don’t kill people at random. And I know you don’t do it unless you think you have to.’

I put down my tools. I’d been expecting an argument. Bran was a very moral man, sure he’d killed another vampire, Jack, but Jack had been trying to kill me.

‘Is this what you’ve been doing when you go out at night?’ he asked.

‘Not killing people. Fighting. Vigilante justice. Robbing from the rich to give to the poor. Call me Robin Hood.’ I sat back, fingers on the edge of the table. I felt a little sweaty and my heart was beating faster than usual. ‘There’s only so much good attacking the tentacles does, sometimes you have to go for the head.’

‘You’re anxious,’ he said, he was becoming increasingly comfortable showing his vampire senses but sometimes I wish he wouldn’t.

‘Is that what it is?’ I asked. ‘I’ve not been anxious before.’

He smiled, very slightly. ‘You’re worried I won’t understand, but I do. I told you I know you care. You see injustice and you act against it.’

I rubbed my thumb over nicks and gouges left in the edge of the table by Bran’s fingernails. ‘I didn’t used to.’

Bran was giving me a look he used to reserve for Josef but was leaking over to me. It was a look that said, ‘You say that but…’

It made me fidget. When Bran used that look you knew if you looked at it from another perspective he’d be right. If I looked back on my youth with my broadening perspective I didn’t get involved in all the fights entirely because I liked fighting. More and more I realised that just because I’d buried my emotions didn’t mean they weren’t still there, I just hadn’t been listening.

Bran had gone back to reading his newspaper and I frowned at the table. He could be an insidious sod, he had an annoying tendency not to openly argue, he presented his perspective calmly and let it settle in. I could rage at him and he’d wait for me to burn out then point out that I was really angry I got quieter, not louder. He didn’t mind walking out of our way to avoid streets that passed directly outside workhouses. He’d hold my hand if we couldn’t avoid it without me showing I wanted him to. He understood that I didn’t fear anything else, but I feared the workhouse.

It was strange to be understood. No-one had ever understood me before. No-one had tried.

‘I’m sorry I didn’t tell you what I was doing,’ I said.

Bran’s newspaper scrunched under his tightening grip.

‘I’ve never had anyone who…’ I sat forward, put my elbows on the table and rubbed my face. ‘I’ve never had anything like this.’

‘Me neither,’ he murmured.

We were quiet for a moment.

Bran lowered his newspaper. ‘I won’t stop you and I won’t going with you unless you ask but… I’d like to know where you might be… just in case.’

I nodded. ‘If you’re not home I’ll leave you a note.’

‘Thank you.’

Having spent the whole morning working on my sheath with no success it seemed time for a break. I got up, rounded the table and sat on his lap. ‘Anything else interesting happening in the news?’

‘Same old.’

I put my arms around his neck and kissed him softly. ‘Getting repetitious at your age?’

He smiled. ‘Not everything.’

For more short fiction see the Short Story and Weekly Serial page.


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