|occhi_bella (occhi_bella) wrote in unknown_fandom,|
@ 2008-04-04 19:58:00
|Entry tags:||fan fiction, sleepy hollow (movie)|
Aftermath - Chapter 15
story_arc Set: 15-03
story_arc Theme: Comfort (10-02, #7)
Fandom: Sleepy Hollow (movie)
Character: Ichabod Crane
Warning: Non-explicit implications of rape and incest. Spoilers
Disclaimer: Sleepy Hollow and its characters do not belong to me. I make no money from this.
Link to Chapter 1
Summary: Ichabod departs for New York with Katrina and Young Masbath, but their journey is delayed by unexpected complications. Picks up at the part where the Hessian disappears into the Tree of the Dead for the last time with Lady Van Tassel.
Her eyes were open when he entered the room. Or rather Stephen’s eyes were open; but it was Abigail who peered out at him through them once again. Ichabod gulped involuntarily and moved toward the bed on shaking legs. It was a relief to sit in the chair beside the bed.
The sleeves of Stephen’s shirt were ripped and Ichabod could see the deep gashes on his arms and wrists from where he’d been struggling against the restraints. The skin was red and raw, the wounds open and seeping blood, and they would become infected if they weren’t looked after. He leaned forward to examine his right wrist but Stephen flinched.
“You’re wounded…I should look after that,” Ichabod offered stiffly, feeling rather foolish.
Stephen, or Abigail, gazed at him silently then began to writhe against the restraints once more.
“No, don’t,” he cried, reaching out and placing a firm hand on Stephen’s arm. The boy stopped resisting and stared at him with Abigail’s eyes once more.
Ichabod swallowed. Words were failing him. He had no idea how to even begin to speak to the ghost of a woman who had taken possession of this boy that he’d taken away from his home village.
“Those wounds…if you keep fighting against the restraints you’ll make them worse. I’m worried that they’re going to become infected.”
He was answered with silence.
“Please, won’t you speak to me?”
“Take off the restraints.”
The softly growled words passed through Stephen’s lips but the voice was a woman’s. Ichabod shivered.
“I…I’m sorry. They’re to protect…” he trailed off again and swallowed. “I’m sorry. I cannot.”
Stephen, or Abigail, began to struggle violently against the restraints once more. Ichabod stood up and tried to still him but it was too late. Possessed once again with strength that was beyond human the boy had managed to rend in two the straps that a moment before had restricted the movement of his arms. With a sharp cry the boy slammed his fists into Ichabod’s chest, pushing him away with such force that he was thrown a couple of feet.
Ichabod gulped for air, his chest aching with every breath from the blows of Stephen’s fists. He dragged himself to his feet in time to see the boy ripping the restraints off of his body and ankles.
“Oh, dear God,” he gasped, clutching his chest, still struggling for breath. It was dawning on him that he was in much more danger than he’d imagined.
But apparently losing the restraints was enough to appease. Stephen only swung his legs over the edge of the bed and sat facing him, waiting. Ichabod shivered involuntarily at the expression of melancholy in his eyes, so uncannily identical to Abigail’s eyes in the portrait. He lowered his eyes, seeing for the first time that blood had begun to flow heavily from Stephen’s wrist from his efforts against the rough restraints. Ichabod groaned and closed his eyes.
“I-I want to help you…Abigail,” he began when he’d managed to catch his breath and regain his composure somewhat. His voice still trembled and his hands shook. “But you must tell me what you need from me. I’m at a loss as to what I can do.”
The boy remained silent and unmoving and Ichabod regarded him with curiosity. It was odd how Abigail’s spirit could shift from violent fury to complete quietude and stillness.
“You’re bleeding. I’ll call for Dr. Thompson…”
“No!” she shouted roughly, and he suddenly recalled the way she had lashed out at Dr. Thompson, the very action that had prompted them to restrain the boy.
“You dislike Dr. Thompson. Why?”
His question was met with more silence. A feeling of panic gripped Ichabod at her continued refusal to answer him.
“Listen to me.” His words began to tumble out at a pitch that was an octave higher than normal. “Stephen cannot continue this way for much longer. He is wasting away from lack of food and activity. Please. Whatever it is...please, don’t take it out on him. Take me instead. He’s only a child…he’s just a year or two older than your daughter…”
She began to keen, a low moan that rose in pitch and volume to a loud, grieving wail.
He waited until she quieted before continuing softly. “Abigail. What happened to your daughter? No one ever found her. Do you remember…?” he trailed off at the sound of knocking on the door.
It was Katrina’s worried voice. He turned and was about to call out to her, to order her to stay outside, but she opened the door before he had the chance.
“Are you alright?”
“Stephen,” she exclaimed, noticing that he was unbound and sitting up.
“Wait, Katrina!” Ichabod seized her arm and stopped her as she began to hurry toward Stephen. “It’s not Stephen.”
His wife gazed at the boy, studying him intently. Extracting her arm from his grip after a moment, she took his hand, gave it a reassuring squeeze and then moved confidently toward the bed.
“She wouldn’t harm me, or anyone who did no ill to her and hers.” She took a seat on the edge of the bed beside Stephen and gently took his hand in hers, examining his wrist. He, or Abigail, didn’t even flinch or shrink from her touch, but rather appeared calmer, soothed somewhat by Katrina’s air of quiet serenity. “I have a salve that can treat this, if you will allow me.”
Katrina stood up and walked toward the door, stopping briefly to reach up and stroke Ichabod’s cheek gently.
“I love you,” she murmured so only he could hear. “You’re very, very brave.”
Then she left the room.
His legs could no longer support him and Ichabod moved back to the chair beside the bed, sitting down again quickly.
“You were about to ask me if I remember something,” Abigail reminded him.
“Yes…I was. Do you remember…this is difficult for me to ask…but do you recall killing your father and mother?”
“I beg pardon. Your stepmother.”
“No. But I suppose I did.”
Katrina returned with cloth bandages and a jar that contained something that was pale green in color and shut the door behind her. Perching on the bed beside Stephen once more, she opened the jar and began to apply the salve to the boy’s bloodied wrists and hands. She glanced up at Ichabod and gave him a reassuring smile, indicating that he should continue with his inquiry while she worked.
“Then, you don’t remember doing so?”
“I don’t know what happened…I don’t know where I had been but I suddenly became aware that I was covered with blood and standing in Edna’s room over her bloody body.”
“The stream was frozen. I saw her fall through the ice, but I couldn’t get to her in time.”
“I’m…I’m so sorry,” Ichabod murmured sadly. “She saw everything, didn’t she?”
He interpreted her silence as an affirmative.
His theory had been correct. Emily witnessed her mother killing her grandparents. She had run away in terror, no doubt. Somehow she ended up on the frozen stream, perhaps fleeing at the sight of her mother, and fell through, becoming trapped. She would have drowned almost immediately.
Tears were streaming down Stephen’s face as she spoke again through him. “There was no reason to live after that. I was the cause of my little girl’s death just as sure as if I’d killed her with my own hands. What life would there be after that?”
Ichabod felt tears burn his own eyes as she spoke. Katrina had bandaged Stephen’s wrists and set aside the jar of salve. She now wiped her hands on a cloth that she’d brought with her and slipped a comforting arm around his shoulders.
“I’m sorry to keep asking questions…but I must.” Ichabod continued. ’mAfter you looked at Emily’s ledgers…”
“I saw to it that she was never left alone with him ever again.”
“He never again had the opportunity. But it was too late. She was so unhappy. You didn’t see her; how she couldn’t eat or sleep. How anxious she was. When she did sleep she had nightmares. Magistrate Dockery was my single last hope.” She lapsed into quiet thought for a short time then sighed unhappily. “She could never forgive me for what I did.”
“Abigail, I know that no one believed you,” Ichabod said softly. “But I believe you. You’ve remained in this house and now you’ve taken possession of Stephen for a reason. Why? Was it to bring the truth to light? You have. What can I do to help…to make you release Stephen? Tell me, please.”
“Bring Magistrate Dockery here.”
“The magistrate? For what purpose?”
She didn’t reply.
“You want revenge,” he exclaimed as it dawned on him a moment later.
“Why shouldn’t I?”
“It won’t change anything that’s happened,” he cried with great passion. “And you would be using Stephen’s body as the instrument to harm another person!”
“Abigail,” Katrina began quietly. “Do you have any idea what that would do to him? You would be making him an unwilling participant in murder. Stephen is not our natural child, but we care for him very much and plan to adopt him. We found one another through odd circumstances; nevertheless we are a family. No one would believe that he murdered because he was possessed by a vengeful spirit. They will treat him as a murderer. Can you really condemn an eleven-year-old boy to that fate for the rest of his life? Surely, as a mother, you couldn’t.”
“There are other ways to exact revenge besides physically harming someone,” she replied.
Equipped with a sudden burst of courage Ichabod stood up and took a seat on the edge of the bed, on Stephen’s other side, and took his hand in his.
“You must believe me,” he urged. “Everyone in this town regrets what they allowed to happen. They all feel terribly guilty and ashamed. Is that not enough?”
“I hear that man talking downstairs, saying that I was a hysterical woman who told lies.”
“But deep in his heart he knows the truth, Abigail. I promise you that it’s so. And I have no doubt that it eats at him from the inside. Not one person in this town will ever forget.”
Katrina spoke up after a spell. “Emily’s body was never found and she wanders here too. Stephen saw her and spoke to her. We would do anything we could to help both of you.”
“Find Emily. And…if you will not allow me to deal with Magistrate Dockery, will you do it for me?” she asked.
“Yes,” Ichabod answered. “I won’t assault him physically. I’ll speak with him and make him hear the truth. But I cannot guarantee his reaction. He is obstinate and may not be able to accept that he made an error in judgment. However, I shall do my best.”
A thick silence settled over the room like a blanket and it became very cold. Stephen slumped against Ichabod’s shoulder. His eyes were closed. Ichabod instinctively wrapped an arm around his waist to support him. A moment later the chill in the room dissipated.
“She’s gone,” Katrina said suddenly, her voice filled with wonder.
“Are you certain?”
“Yes.” She took hold of Stephen’s hand and checked his pulse. “His pulse is steady and strong.”
They sat in worried silence listening to his even breathing. Katrina reached over and brushed some stray hairs out of the boy’s face. A moment later he stirred and opened his eyes.
He sat up and gazed around, bewildered.
Ichabod looked into his face anxiously, his hands shaking. There were dark circles under his eyes and they looked sunken in, but it was Stephen who peered out through them now. As haggard and gaunt as he looked, it was Stephen Masbath. He closed his eyes and released a long sigh of relief.
“You’re alright,” he reassured him quietly, opening his eyes and squeezing the boy’s shoulder. “You’re alright.”
Katrina embraced him warmly and Stephen hugged her back, looking puzzled. He didn’t seem to have any idea what had happened to him these past days.
“How do you feel?”
“Good,” she laughed. “I’ll go downstairs and prepare a good meal for you. Will you come down and eat, or should I bring dinner up?”
“I’ll come down. I’d like to leave this room.”
“I don’t blame you.”
She hugged him again, then released him and headed off to make dinner.
Ichabod watched Stephen carefully, observing him. Other than his weak appearance he seemed himself. Stephen turned to him.
“Are we going to leave this place soon, sir?”
“God willing,” Ichabod answered wistfully then chuckled lightly and patted his shoulder again. “There are some things that I have to take care of here first. I made a promise to someone.”
Ichabod had to support Stephen as they walked downstairs together. The boy was weak and his legs were shaking from recent under-use. But once they were seated in the kitchen and Katrina brought out dinner the boy ate heartily.
“Easy,” Ichabod warned him as he wolfed down the first bites of stew and bread. “You don’t want to make yourself ill from your first good meal.”
Stephen nodded and slowed down ever so slightly.
James McKinley and Dr. Thompson were genuinely pleased to see Stephen when they entered the room and saw him.
“It’s good to see you up and about, young man,” McKinley greeted him amiably, slapping him lightly on the back.
“Thank you, sir.”
Dr. Thompson nodded to them and turned to Stephen. “How are you feeling then?”
The boy shrugged. “A little tired, but alright.”
“Now that you’re eating full meals again you’ll start to feel better. You lost a lot of weight very quickly.”
There was still some daylight left when they had finished dinner and Stephen was aching to get outside. Ichabod and Katrina both accompanied him as he walked down the street. Though he was anxious to move around, Stephen tired easily.
“We can walk slowly. There’s no need to rush.”
“I hate feeling like this,” the boy remarked sulkily.
Ichabod patted his back reassuringly. “I know. But I have no doubt you’ll recover quickly. Don’t worry.”
They walked a short way beyond the limits of the town center, then Katrina coaxed Stephen to turn back and head inside.
“Night is falling and it’s getting cold,” she prodded gently. “We can come outside again first thing tomorrow morning.”
By the time they returned many of the villagers had arrived at the tavern, including Magistrate Dockery.
“I’ll take Stephen upstairs,” Katrina told him quietly.
Ichabod nodded and bid Stephen goodnight. Then he took a seat at the table where Magistrate Dockery had joined Dr. Thompson, intent on speaking with him. Despite the hostile glance he received from the magistrate and many of the other more suspicious folk from town, he was determined to keep his promise to Abigail and make all of them hear the truth.
“Drink this down,” Katrina ordered gently, handing the steaming cup to him.
Ichabod was still shaken up after his talk with Magistrate Dockery. But it wasn’t the angry remarks, or the torrent of epithets and indignant cries that had been thrown his way that upset him so. It was sadness and frustration at the refusal to hear him, to hear the truth. Why was it that every place he went the majority of people wouldn’t listen to truth or reason?
“No one has an easy time admitting they’re wrong, especially someone as advanced in age as he is,” his wife counseled him gently. “Don’t you see, Ichabod? If he acknowledges the truth of what Mark Jenner did then he has to take responsibility for the lost lives of each one of the Jenners.”
“I suppose you’re right,” he replied sadly.
“Drink,” she insisted, gesturing to the teacup in his hand. He hadn’t even raised it to his lips yet.
She sat on the edge of the bed beside him while he drained the cup.
“Well, I can do no more for Abigail as far as Magistrate Dockery is concerned,” he sighed when he’d finished the tea. “Now I must focus my attention on finding Emily.”
Katrina took the empty cup from him and set it on the night table. They both began to undress. Ichabod slipped into bed and drew the blankets up around him.
“How was Stephen for the rest of the evening?” he asked, watching his wife as she dressed for bed.
“Fine. He had trouble falling asleep, naturally. I stayed with him and we read together for awhile until he felt that he could sleep.”
She slipped into bed beside him and tugged at the blankets.
“Strange,” he murmured thoughtfully, staring up at the ceiling.
“I don’t understand. How is it that Stephen could see Emily but Abigail’s ghost couldn’t? Surely they must have crossed paths.” No sooner had he asked the question he realized how foolish it sounded.
The question didn’t faze Katrina at all though. “They exist in different states, I suppose. Abigail was able to possess Stephen. Emily couldn’t. But she could be seen, not only by Stephen, but by you.”
“Yes.” He shivered.
He was tempted to ask her how she knew that Abigail wouldn’t attack her when she drew near, and he wondered if she had caught on to what had really happened to both mother and daughter. After all, she had looked in his ledger in Sleepy Hollow. What if she had been tempted to peek at Emily’s ledger when he was out of the room, to look closer at those drawings? Could she hide the level of distress that she must feel with such knowledge? He concluded that he was better off refraining from questioning her about it. The manner in which his wife divined such things was better left as a mystery to him. His success in speaking with Abigail and extracting information was due in large part to the effect of Katrina’s calming presence on the spirit. That was all the knowledge that he needed. Stephen was himself again and recovering. That and keeping his promise to Abigail were the things that were important now.
She raised herself up on an elbow and leaned over to kiss him. Her long golden hair brushed his cheek ever so slightly, stirring a torrent of emotion and yearning for her. They hadn’t touched each other this way in many days, so frantic and preoccupied had they been with Stephen. He embraced her and pulled her down onto him, kissing her passionately.
Later, as they lay side by side, their heated bodies cooling, Ichabod found his thoughts wandering to the drawings in Emily’s ledger and a feeling of melancholy filled him. He would never forget it.
Katrina had turned on her side and raised herself up on an elbow again. Reaching over, she stroked his cheek tenderly and brushed his hair out of his face.
“Let it go, Ichabod. You can’t change what happened to Emily or Abigail. But know that for every man who behaves like Mark Jenner there are a dozen good men like you. Like my father.”
His lips parted slightly and he gazed at her, stunned. She smiled and pressed her finger to his lips. He kissed it tenderly.
“You look surprised, my love.”
He finally spoke. “Here I was thinking I had to protect you from the ills of the world. In some ways you are wiser than I am.”
When Ichabod woke in the morning he slipped out of bed, leaving Katrina to sleep, and dressed, then padded off to Stephen’s room to check on him. Stephen was gone from his bed and not to be found in the house upon searching. He hurried downstairs. James McKinley had left already and the tavern was empty.
He dashed outside, becoming panicked as he imagined Abigail possessing Stephen again and forcing him to murder. Or to throw himself in the stream so that he would drown too.
Frantically he looked up and down the street, catching sight of Mrs. Greeley.
She nodded a greeting to him as she approached and he hurried forth to meet her.
“Mrs. Greeley. Good morning.”
“Good morning, Constable. Are you looking for your boy?”
“You’ve seen him?”
“He is with Jamie and the others. Now that the stream has thawed somewhat they’ve resumed their search.” She pointed and Ichabod followed the direction of her finger with his eyes. “The stream continues on through that forest. Eventually it meets the river. They are searching there now.”
“I’m glad he’s feeling better, Constable.”
Ichabod walked in the direction that Mrs. Greeley had indicated wondering what had prompted the villagers to move their search so far from where they had begun it. The road ended and he found himself in a small snow-covered clearing. A thick forest lay beyond it.
Fortunately it was not windy today and he walked through the forest, following the stream, his boots crunching on the hardened snow. After a long trek through the woods, the river came into view. Stephen stood on the bank with the village men that had gathered there, watching them. Two men were in a boat in the middle of the water, searching the bottom with a grappling hook. Finding nothing in one spot they rowed further on, stopping once more and searching.
James McKinley stood on the bank as well. He glanced back and caught sight of Ichabod, then nodded a greeting.
Ichabod returned the nod and moved toward the boy. He halted in his tracks and his mouth fell open when he glimpsed the back of the dark-haired little girl in a pink dress that stood beside Stephen. In moments his body was covered in gooseflesh and his hair felt as if it was standing on end. She looked as real as any of them and, though he couldn’t see her face, he knew exactly who she was.
He shook his head, closed his eyes and then opened them again. She was still standing there; yet he was certain that Stephen had been standing alone only moments before.
“Stephen…” he began weakly. He was shaking and he felt dizzy.
Stephen turned to him and the girl followed suit. Ichabod recognized her face immediately from the portrait in Abigail Jenner’s bed chamber and the blood drained from his face.
“Sir,” Stephen greeted him.
Ichabod gulped nervously and stood still, gaping at Emily.
“Are…are you feeling…alright, Stephen? I-I w-was wondering where you had gone,” he finally managed to stammer.
“I’m feeling better, sir. I’ve been cooped up in that room for so long,” he explained. “I just wanted to walk around and get some air.”
“Yes…I can understand that,” Ichabod replied, unable to take his eyes off of the little girl.
With great trepidation he gingerly stepped closer to the two children.
“And you followed these men all the way out here?”
The boy shrugged. “I was curious to see what was going on.”
Ichabod nodded. The fact that Stephen had managed to walk all the way here was a good sign; it meant that some of his strength had returned.
He turned around, shocked to see Katrina approaching.
“I saw that you and Stephen were both gone…a woman told me where to find you…are you alright?”
She clasped his hand.
“Y-yes,” he murmured, turning back to Stephen.
“My God!” she whispered, gazing in Stephen’s direction. “Is that…?”
“I’ve got something!” one of the men cried from the boat after a long while.
They struggled for some time before finally pulling something from the river and into the boat with them.
As the boat drew near the bank of the river, two men on dry land hurried forward to pull it out of the water and onto shore. The two men inside climbed out and stood with the others in a huddle, peering down into the rowboat, no doubt at the body, and speaking animatedly.
James McKinley turned again and called out to him. “Constable, we found her.”
Ichabod’s eyes wandered back to the apparition of Emily standing before them. Had she led the men here the way she led him to her ledgers? She still hadn’t drawn anyone else’s eye. Even Stephen didn’t seem to be aware of her presence. He and Katrina alone saw her.
“You are certain of that?”
Surely she would no longer be recognizable if her body had been in the water for nearly a year. It occurred to him that he ought to join the group of men gathered around the rowboat, to examine the body, but he found that his legs wouldn’t move. He couldn’t take his eyes off of the figure of Emily Jenner that stood in plain sight beside Stephen. She turned around again and gazed at him with melancholy eyes.
“We think that her body got stuck under a crevice at the bottom of the river,” McKinley continued. “The cold water preserved her. Her face is blue, but otherwise it hasn’t changed. It’s definitely her.”
A moment later Emily vanished into thin air.
“It was her!” Katrina exclaimed breathlessly.