Everything that’s happened in the last few days made Victor think through his deeds. Perhaps he was indeed a sexist and also had been too hard on Henry by throwing truths at his face that must have hardened his heart with anger and sarcasm. He wanted to apologize and, if possible, start over with him.
After finding the adress of Lord Jekyll’s estate, he knocked at the door and was welcomed by a butler that reminded him of Sembene. Victor was told to wait for a bit and by the time he was kept standing at the doorstep, Henry seemed to have deliberated for quite a while before letting him in. Victor walked through a hallway in whose walls hanged paintings of landscapes in India, a full-body-half-profile portrait of Henry and another of a beautiful woman of oriental features who wore a colorful party gown before arriving at the office from where he could hear Henry’s voice in whispers.
By approaching the door, he saw a Henry bent over a desk before piles of paper with a pen on his hand raise his gaze towards him... A shadow of a smile passed through Henry’s face, but once he noticed his own escapade, he closed his expression, making the lines of age of his forehead show. Everything in the new lord’s body language indicated he was already a master of his domain and Victor couldn’t help but think he liked to notice that, deep down.
- Dr. Frankenstein... I see you wanted to know my new home. You couldn’t help yourself after the news I’ve told you at Bedlam. - whispered Henry, sitting straight at the high-backed chair.
- It’s really a beautiful estate and you seem to be taking good care of it. I’m glad for you, truly. - Victor clutched the coat he carried over his arm against his body and moved cautiously towards Henry, who crossed a leg over the other and followed him with fiery eyes.
- Are you afraid of me, old man? - asked Henry when Victor grabbed himself a chair and sat before him. The other denied with his head, but it didn’t convince him. After a few seconds, Henry stood up in a single move, went to the double door and closed it behind him, leaning his back against it.
- No, I’m not. I came here to speak to you. I’ve been thinking of some things... In truth, I’m afraid we cease to be friends due to my last deeds and I’m sorry for it.
Henry slowly pushed himself away from the door and squinted his brown eyes.
- Ah, so now you think of my friendship for itself, after fetching for me with hidden agenda, getting in the way of my research to achieve your own ends rocking the results at my face like a glass of water in front of a thirsty man, judging me for wanting that for myself, although using it to shape a woman into your liking.
- It’s not my right or anyone else’s to interfere in one’s pain. Now I see that I could neither do that to Lily nor let you do it to yourself. Days ago you’ve told me we’re all both light and dark... As complicated and scary as it is, we cannot hold our pain against others or deny it for what it really is: part of who we are.
- But I still can interfere in my own! - shouted Henry when he approached Victor. - And it’s too late for you to stop me; I’ve been using your method with my serum upon myself since the last time we spoke. It was the only way I could handle myself, even more so because even you are condescendant with my issues, have no idea how hard it is for me and also step on me like a bug just like all others.
Henry took a glass with a furious and trembling hand, trying to keep the other as steady as possible while getting the water jar to fill it. Frankenstein shifted nervously on his chair with his heart sped up with nervousness. He’s never seen such anger in his friend’s eyes and it looked like it has just begun. Henry looked like another man.
- You’re mad! What are you doing? What are you talking about? You look so different...
- I was mad when I thought that with the years you’d see your wrongdoing and would do some justice to the efforts I’ve done for you so as to never forget my own goodness! How many times have I pulled you out of the mud and cleaned your veins of the cocaine, ignoring your insults? I want to care for you and by consequence help myself, but all I recieve in return is someone who can only bring me down, you inconsequent racist!
Henry drank the water, but it certainly couldn’t calm him down. The young man closed his grasp around the glass and when he made a sudden move so as to put it back on the table, it shattered, cutting a few of his fingers. Victor motioned as one would to check what happened, but Henry turned away and took care of the wound himself.
- But... I had no idea! Henry... I... - Victor threw himself back to his seat as if he were tired.
When he raised his eyes, Victor heard Henry breathe with effort and suddenly his appearence began to change. He seemed to shrink, for his clothes folded over and looked loose in his body; his hair went frizzy, his handsome face got hollow and scary with saggy skin, his teeth usually impeccable looked rotten by the dacays. He looked older and crueler. Victor called out for Henry but a laugh was all he was given.
- Not Henry... Edward Hyde now, and you shall pay! - the creature within Henry’s clothes took a hot fireplace poker and pointed it towards Victor’s neck.
- But what... Henry would never hurt me! Where is he? - Victor felt tears over his eyes when the heat from the poker touched his face.
- Unavailable at the moment, old man. And part of the blame goes to you.
- Please, Henry, I know you can hear me. Whoever this thing is, I can help you deal with it. I’ve seen something similar happen to a friend. I know you don’t want to do this. I sincerely thank you for saving my life once more and ask for your forgiveness. I’ll never hurt you in that way again, I swear! - Victor moved his hand towards the one of Hyde’s wich held the glowing poker.
The part of Henry that was opposite of Hyde, both being inhabitants of the same body pretty much literally, didn’t want to get carried away by Frankenstein’s words, they seemed too good to be true... The resentment he had for the other felt strong enough and Hyde would’ve settled the scores very soon...
If Henry had not allowed himself to believe in them. Although he deep down only accepted to get into Victor’s absurd game because he missed his old mate and wanted his attention and then thought he was a coward for not going through with Lily and the serum, Henry still hoped things could be as they were; that Victor would treat him better after all and get to see what’s been obvious in his eyes for all these years. Henry loved Victor the same way Victor thought he loved Lily.
Henry’s expression changed a bit, as though he were feeling some sort of deep pain. He moaned and his eyes popped; slowly his face started to go back to normal, as did his posture... The fright made Henry drop the poker on the floor and turn his back on Victor so as to unable the other to see him change and mostly cry.
- Henry, look at me. - said Victor quietly, breaking the overwhelming silence. He got up and stretched a hand to touch Henry’s shoulder
- I am so sorry, old boy... I’m scared! - Henry turned back to face Victor and clinged to his touch.
- I know, Henry. But we’ll figure it out, eventually. - Victor made the other sit down and gave him some water, crouching down before him.
Victor saw Henry take one of his hands into both of his, looking him straight in the eyes with an intensity and tenderness never seen before. F.’s known those eyes for a long time and at that moment there was something that stopped him from breaking the contact. As though they were black holes whose gravity made him fall into them with no fear.
- Victor... Perhaps I am making a mess of everything, perhaps I am really mad for seeing things where there is nothing, but even if so I feel them and they already make it worth it for what they make me feel and remember, even if I don’t have it back. They remind me that despite my wrath, my darkness, I can still love and be gentle, care for another person as I loved and tried to take care of my mother and love myself. Aside from everything you do to hurt me. I must be freed of this, talk about this.
“For years I’ve been trying to squeeze into a little corner of my heart something that is much bigger than me that hasn’t changed despite all, being always here... That’s never given me calm or peace and that only strengthened after we’ve met again, for I could see you once more, reliving my hopes. We don’t choose these things, old man. What I’ve carried within me all this time is the hope that not only you are able to see the times when you mistreat me, which I know you can do, for all our history together. I know that you can be sweet, generous and kind when you want to...
“But also the sincere wish that you notice what I’ve been trying to deny and supress, but that today I know is written all over my eyes, my face right now. Something that does me as much good as your company or the memory of you at school with me, reading poems with great passion at night so as to help sleep after fighting the bullies and as bad as the same offenses coming from you or your arrogance...
“What you saw minutes ago is complicated, but what kept my fury from killing you was... The fact that I love you. I love you, Victor, that’s exactly what you heard. I love you, although your deeds don’t make you worthy of my love in theory. Because it’s not about deserving; I offer you my love freely because I want to and because I know you want to be loved.
Henry’s tone made Victor feel he referred to something more, something that went beyond what they already had.
- Please, Victor. Say something... Take me out of this misery, I cannot handle it anymore... - Henry ran a hand through Frankenstein’s face, resting it over his neck. He felt Victor’s pulse speed up from under his fingertips.
The craving for physical contact and some sort of response from Victor made Henry stop caring about the consequences. He brought the other’s face closer to his, whispering a shaky “I need you”. Victor didn’t seem to marvel at the attitude and surprisingly let himself go; he shifted on the floor to stand on his knees for a metter of comfort. Henry leaned his cheek against one of Victor’s, depositing little tear-tasted kisses; kisses that tasted like the tears from both of them, which were so soft that barely dared to touch him.
- Do you remember, old boy? Of that daybreak when the hooka’s smoke had the opposite effect and ourged our greatest truths from us? I haven’t forgotten... But what about you? - Henry turned his face over so as to whisper towards Victor’s mouth before kissing it with the sensual and yet tender thirst with which a hummingbird tackles princess earrings. Henry’s breath was fresh like summer rain.
Victor let himself be kissed; it felt so sweet, so comfortable, so familiar that, although he went breathless, he noticed his own hands were tangled in Henry’s hair and that he responded to the gesture with as much intensity. Victor himself felt that not even when he gave in to Lily the sensation was the same as now... Or as in the day Henry spoke of. It felt better, much better. Nothing could make him push Henry away, even if he tried or wanted to.
- I remember... Henry. - whimpered Victor when they set apart for a milimiter. He heard a cuckle come from Henry’s chest. - But I didn’t know that...
- Open your eyes, Victor. I’m the one who’s always wanted you. And you love me too. Or are you denying what’s happening? - Henry’s tone was that of someone who’s laughing as they speak; which was true, for he tried to swallow a laugh as he grabbed F by the waist again.
- I get so worried in being someone unshakable, who’s got control over everything, that I don’t know how to acknoledge my ephemeral parts. The poets did that for me, it was easier. - Victor took a deep breath, feeling Henry’s cologne run through his lungs. He looked like a small child in Henry’s arms. - I entered med school because I felt empty since my mother’s death; I wanted to spare others of such pain so badly and was so drowned in my own sorrow that I couldn’t admit to myself that you brought me that life.
“The truth is that I’ve always been afraid of confessing I was attracted to you. Despite everything you’ve suffered and suffer even from me, which I’m deeply sorry for, you’ve always fought to stand your ground, to be recognized and well-treated. Such humble posture, and yet as righteous and haughty as a king’s; I’ve always found it beautiful. Even those who always humiliated you for your color couldn’t deny that. And also because you are... A very handsome man. You’re beautiful, Henry.
For a second, Henry thought he would hear Victor say something like “for a wog”, but a weight slipped out of his chest when nothing else was spoken. Henry wanted very much to believe Victor was being honest, just like he was. Henry loved him and hoped all of that was a proof Victor would retribute his love and patience.
- Thank you, old man. Likewise. - Henry felt his face blush and held Victor tighter. - I love you.
- I love you too, Henry. Forgive me for everything, I’m really sorry.
- If I hadn’t forgiven you, you’d be dead already. - Henry looked away, but quickly changed the subject. - If this is what it is... Will you stay with me for the night?
- Henry! I... What do you mean?
- Come on, you fool. Are we together or not? Was all this for nothing, like smoke in the wind?
- We are together, yes. I want to be with you. But are you sure that me moving in is wise? There’s my lab at the boarding house, all my things... What will the others think of this? You built yourself a reputation at Harley Street and...
- For God’s sake, Frankenstein! I’ll find a way later. How I hate that bunch of hypocrites! But I won’t let you live any longer in that slum smaller than a pilchard’s tin. I’ll send for your things right away; from now on, if you so desire, this is your home as well. The lab I have here is tremendous, we can share its space without trouble. Do you want it?
Victor’s eyes sparkled; his body language and way of speaking were the same as when he talked about Lily at Bedlam. But now it was because of Henry and he couldn’t help but love that.
- I do! I want it, old man. You know what? I just found out that a few friends of mine are spending a season in Cairo, at another friends’ who’s living there now. I’d love you to meet them some day... We can wait for their return and have a tea together....
- So you have other friends aside from me now, huh? HAHAHAHAHA I’m joking, Victor, that’s excellent. I can’t wait. By coincidence or not, my boss at Harley Street told me I could take leave for a while if I want to. We can get aboard tomorrow. But I doubt you can handle the heat of the desert.
- Go on, mock me. I want to go there to introduce you to them, as my old college mate and...
- But now I’m more than that, am I not, old boy? - Henry’s face was frowned, his voice sibilant, but firm.
- Yes, you are. You are my companion.
Henry noticed the euphemism but chose to remain silent for now. Victor was with him, it was all that mattered.