"There is nothing like an insane asylum for gently incubating death."
Donned in black, she knocked on the front door of a house she had been to only once before. When Elizabeta liked her. When she trusted her. It was always important to know where someone lived, it was important she showed that she cared when she couldn't give a damn what happened to that woman. She checked her watch with each minute that passed without an answer. Three minutes before the door opened on the umpteenth time she knocked.
Roderich was a shrewd man in a way but sometimes he could be sloppy, rarely caring for punctuality or respect. That much Monika could make the basis to dislike him. Even now, he looked down on her, not an unfamiliar feeling. The only reason she felt the need to strive for perfection was that feeling.
"Ah, black. Again." He looked her up and down with a frown.
"Again?" He stared at her, amused.
"It seems like everyone believes this place is a funeral." She suppressed the need to show her amusement. In a way, it was a funeral. But he didn't know that. Elizabeta Héderváry had gone missing a few days ago. Missing.
"Yes, but the etiquette makes such events, not unlike mourning. She was well respected." He nodded hesitantly.
"Well, I can guess that much… A few other nurses have come here," His eyes were scrutinizing, unfeeling of her presence. "But you of all people. I haven't seen you here in a long time." She shifted her gloved hands over her purse.
"Well, I do like to keep to myself, but I'd hope we were considered friends even during such a short time I've worked with her…" She sighed. "I do have my concerns, about her disappearance. I don't know if you'd know of it." Her worried expression seemed to sway him as his defenses lowered. His shoulders slumped, a falter in his cold demeanor.
"What is it?" He asked. Curiosity was something everyone had and most found it irresistible, especially when they were the only one who wasn't in the know. Getting someone curious was one of the easiest ways to become the most knowledgeable person in a room – It was the easiest form of dominance.
"I… I don't find it appropriate to discuss out here," She shook her head and laughed awkwardly realizing her mistake. An intentional mistake. "No, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have mentioned it at all."
Roderich took a few seconds to process this but moved aside, "Come in. I'll listen."
When his brother hadn't shown himself for several days, it was hard for Lovino not to feel some type of worry. Not only that, but it was perhaps the first and only time in two years that he had seen Nurse Beilschmidt take a day off work. However, one might see this as an opportunity as he sat at his favorite place by the window. For the first time in a long time, he stood and approached the nurses' station by his own free will, the only one present today was Nurse Vogel who seemed to be sweating at the collar by such a rare sight.
"Ciao." He smiled tersely. His words dripping with sarcasm as she seemed to be thoroughly stunned.
"Yes, ?" She feigned ignorance to just how peculiar this day was.
"Have you noticed something strange?" She looked behind her and out onto the recreation floor. "No? Surely you noticed." He covered her line of sight by moving his body in front of wherever her eyes darted next.
"I urge you to use your recreation time, it's not much time in the day-" He leaned forward, face as close to the lattice metal as he could get without his nose touching it.
"Have you got a pen?" He scoffed. "What a stupid question, of course, you do. But would you be willing to give it to me?"
"Of course, but… What is it you would like to do with it?" He stared at her as if she were an idiot. Well, that wasn't too far from the truth. All teenagers were idiots. Naïve may be a better word but that was an awfully steep slippery slope.
"A letter – I don't believe you ever gave me your favor." Her eyes shifted to her toes.
"Nurse Beilschmidt knows." Lovino rolled his eyes.
"Is she here right now?" The girl shook her head. "Well, go on. Go to my brother."
"I can't possibly leave patients-"
"Do they look like they're going off the rails? If something happens, I'll take the responsibility for it, not like I don't already with that bitch," Nurse Vogel seemed offended by the term. "I don't know what the hell you see in her."
"She's a good woman." Lovino frowned. He could tell her that her heart was black and rotted long by now. That it wasn't worth defending her when everyone already knew anything and everything they could possibly know about her. Instead, he went back to the task at hand – It wasn't worth preaching to a brick wall.
"Give me your pen and I'll take care of them for you. Honestly, it'd be easier for you, the only nurse on duty right now, right here, to go with the crazy patient who is a danger to himself and others is telling you," He doubted the sarcasm got through to her. "Or not but if I had to guess why my brother isn't here right now, I'm not thinking it would be because he just felt like it. He needs to hear it from me."
"Your brother?" He nodded. Of course, she already knew what he wanted from her. It was always about him nowadays. "Oh… I assume you're worried about him too."
"Don't play dumb," They always played stupid but also always knew the exact condition of every patient. "What the hell has him hauled up in his room?"
"I honestly don't know but I… I must not say..." He raised an eyebrow as if to say, you've come this far. Her sheepish gaze fluttering away as she understood her poor attempt at remaining tight-lipped was not working on him. "I was told that Nurse Beilschmidt was dealing with it privately. That he doesn't wish to be disturbed by anyone but her – I don't want to be a bother."
"And is just okay with one of his patients being privately attended to? In his establishment? I mean, come on. This is… Bullshit," While he tried to restrain himself around her, he rarely succeeded past a five-minute conversation. "It's not exactly rocket science to see through her schemes."
"I doubt that this is a scheme," She frowned. "He agreed to this arrangement and sees this as beneficial. His words. I can't argue with a signed letter from your brother's hand." Lovino groaned. Of course, he was a complete fool. He'd agree to anything.
"Then she's talked to him about it too. … He's a drug-"
"I know what he is…" She said sadly. Too much sympathy for his likes. "But I can't just break the rules."
"You did before."
"That was when I thought nobody knew. , please. I can't have even the slightest possibility of a letter being found. Whether it's in the trash or in a pocket or in-"
"Sneak me in." He decided.
"Instead of taking me to my room, take me to his. It won't be long; you can take me back after no longer than half of an hour. This is the one day I've seen Nurse Beilschmidt gone. She wouldn't possibly know I was there if you lock the goddamn door for once. No evidence..." She stared at him skeptically. "Tell her that the psycho Vargas brother threatened you to do it. You're a little lily to her – She'd probably believe it too. The one day she isn't here, everything falls into anarchy. None of it will hinder you, in fact, she'd probably take care of you even more than she already does."
Erika took a few more moments to think it over. Of course, she was always right behind Nurse Beilschmidt, always close enough to be in her shadow. It was almost pitiful, like a little lost lamb. But Lovino already knew he had won her over, "Okay… I'll take you to him. But twenty minutes at most."
"I knew you'd make the smart choice. Ciao." He smirked.
"C-Ciao." He struggled not to scoff at her. Instead, he chose to keep to himself. He couldn't help but notice the stares he received from Antonio. He knew he never moved from that same spot he sat at, every single day without fail. For the brief moment after Lovino sat back down that Antonio gave him an incredulous expression, he almost thought he would speak to him. Putting an end to that thought, he prioritized his brother. After all, he was the only one who seemed to give a damn enough to come to the embodiment of hell next to the real thing, but he never belonged here in the first place. Not for a second. Like hell he was going to put that bastard through everything he had been going through for so long. Meanwhile, Antonio hadn't put in the effort to even try, any plans Lovino came up with was met with nothing but complacency.
Lovino didn't have that kind of energy to convince him it was best to leave but at the very least Feliciano could be saved.
"I know I didn't just hear such an implication come out of your mouth." Of course, Roderich wasn't happy to hear the truth. Neither was Monika. She hated this truth, but it was the only one that she knew anymore. The only one that mattered to her because it was the only thing that could make her understand why Elizabeta ever did what she did.
She removed her gloves, "I'd like you to tell me what implication you think I'm making. As far as I knew, I was crystal clear about what I said."
"Elizabeta is an honest woman. We-" She cut him off before he could fall deeper into his assumptions. People could put on a very different face whenever they pleased. Elizabeta thought she could bury her secrets, but they never truly went unforgotten.
"Were very unhappy. I know. She loved you, that much I believe," Monika didn't break her gaze. "But she loved someone dear to me as well. He was an honest man too before he so tragically passed. It seemed like it was common for her to find affection elsewhere."
"And just how am I supposed to believe you?" He asked with a cynical expression. She shrugged, laying her gloves neatly on her lap.
"Maybe you can't but have I proven myself anything but honest to you? Do you think I liked to know her secrets?" She scoffed. "That kind of knowledge ruined everything I had. You two may have had a comfortable life but this is not something that I appreciated to know in my own life." The resentment in her voice had shone through. She didn't care to hide it. As she said, she could be quite honest too and that hatred felt so real.
He scoffed, "I don't know anything about you. All I see is someone who is making up an elaborate story."
"You didn't talk to her much, did you?" She raised an eyebrow. "I'm sure you would have noticed a change – Some time ago of course, but I don't know how someone like her could have slept at night knowing what she did." She didn't want to let on that this was much more than any stupid affair could mean to her. This was much more personal than that.
"What do you want?" He asked. "You come here, imply she has been unfaithful and now you're acting as if I give a damn about your petty business."
"Petty? You've lost your wife, Roderich. I don't find anything about this petty, everything matters here," She shook her head. "No, you haven't lost her. I know where she went." He seemed interested in this development. While she did know where she went – straight into the incinerator that is – He couldn't have thought anything other than what his previously sown doubts had planted in his mind.
"Should I ask where?" No, probably not. But Monika didn't want to disappoint him with the truth. He wouldn't take to that so much. Instead, she reached into her purse, pulling out a gold ring. Quite expensive, the one she wore every day.
"I found this in the trash, at the nurses' station. Strange she would leave something so saleable, especially when she didn't exactly bring much else to work her final shift. Almost makes you think she had been planning to go missing for a long time. Even resigned the same day. As if she just began anew," She placed the ring on the coffee table. "So not exactly a where, but a who. I would say you should start anew too since she doesn't appear to share the same sentiment you have for her. Quite tragic yet so common for the especially unhappy wives."
He stared at the ring before picking it up, examining every edge of it. But coming to the same conclusion. It was plucked straight from her finger, just not by herself of course. Yet he would never know that as even he seemed to slump in his seat, "I would like to be alone."
She nodded, "Of course," Standing as she slipped her gloves back on, she gave him one last nod. "I'm terribly sorry." It was only polite, no matter how little she cared to say it.
He couldn't say that he was pleased to see his brother. Even if everything he had done was for him, it felt wrong to look at his face. So instead, he avoided it entirely.
"Nurse Vogel let you in, didn't she?" He asked, not quite looking directly at him. He didn't see if Lovino had nodded or anything, but he finally managed to give him a verbal response.
"Who else? Not like Nurse Héderváry is here to do it for me," That name made him cringe. Not so unnoticeably either. He could already tell his brother was looking right through him. "A little bird told me that you've been privately cared for by the witch."
"Monika, uh, Nurse Beilschmidt – She's been nice to me." That was true. She had been nice to him. Very nice to him. Making sure that he was fed when he really wanted to just throw it back up was an unknown positive, he vehemently disliked being hungry. He saw Lovino cross his arms and kneel down so that he was in Feliciano's direct eye-line. Unavoidable unless he wanted to be openly rude about it. Lovino's eyes glanced at his hands, a healing hand covered in a bandage. Instead of asking questions, as Feliciano expected, he scoffed.
"You're trembling," Feliciano put his hands in his pockets, Lovino chuckled at how poorly he hid it. "Nurse Beilschmidt is only nice if she can benefit. What is it she wants from you?"
"I- Nothing. I don't know what she wants." It wasn't a complete lie but not the complete truth either. He had already done her bidding. It's just that he had no idea what else she may want.
His brother sighed, "I read your letter."
"And you didn't send one back…" He said sadly. "I waited." It might've been the only thing that would've prevented this. Just that one form of communication – That connection after so long apart. It would've kept him sane and stable even just for a moment where he needed it.
"You think I forgive you?" The frustration in his voice was understandable. "You left me here. You never cared until the day you came, what changed?"
"Nothing- I always-"
"Don't give me that bullshit. I would've dropped everything to come here if it meant you would be out of this shithole. You're the only reason I came to this fucking country and you have me locked in it for-"
"When I came here it was ten months and twenty-one days. You don't get to tell me I didn't care," He felt the tears begin to well. "I don't expect you to forgive me. I never thought grandpa's suggestion was right, but I sent you a letter every day and I never got a response so what else was I supposed to think?" He didn't intend for it to sound so hateful. It wasn't like that at all. He was just as frustrated as he was about this.
"A letter? I didn't…" Lovino frowned. "You should have visited. Letters never get through."
"You hated me before, why would that change?" He couldn't avoid his eyes now. "Don't lie – You hated me. You still do."
"I don't hate you. You just think I do," He scoffed. "For someone so showy about how brave they were to avoid a firing squad with grandpa's money you've always been insecure about it." Brave? Feliciano never thought of himself as brave. That was something to be ashamed of – It always had been to him. A coward's choice.
"You can't just stop it for once? I just-" He stopped himself. Of course, this was an argument they had been in for years, but he always divulged into the same dynamics with him. Lovino had every right to hate him but he sure had a lot to dislike about his brother as well. It just wasn't right to act like they weren't both hauled up in the same place, in the same terrible position as each other. Neither could ever be better than the other in that regard.
"Whatever, you should just keep your head down and I'll do my part-"
"I killed her." Feliciano admitted. His brother's eyes went wide. He could practically see every green and hazel fleck in his eyes.
"You what?" For the first time, Lovino had nothing to say.
"I… I slit her neck." Lovino stood up, as he did so, Feliciano's hands instinctively came from his pockets and beside him as if to keep him grounded while he stared at that raging face.
"You idiot. You fucking idiot. Were you not bloodthirsty enough seven fucking years ago-"
Feliciano stood just one inch taller, and yes that somehow mattered to Lovino, "I just want to be good – Don't you understand? I just want to-to get you out of here," He watched with wet eyes as Lovino let out an angry sigh, almost a groan as he rubbed his face with both hands. "I didn't want to do it, Lovi." It felt like such a long time since he'd said that. Almost regressing back to children again.
Lovino removed his hands, waving a finger in his face, "If you get caught-" Feliciano pushed his hand down.
"I won't get caught. Not with her. She promised me she would be there for me and she has." The glare he received in return back Feliciano feel sick. He already felt ill enough.
"She was an innocent," Feliciano shrugged – The only response he could give. "I can't believe you-"
"It's not like it matters to you anyway – You already think of me as-as some kind of murderer," He bit his lip. "I'll stay here while you leave. It's only fair."
"You idiot- You don't know what you're talking about," He gave him an open-palmed gesture directed towards him as if to get him looking at himself. "You're just having one of your little moments where you think you're making a good decision but it seems like you can't do anything close to that if you somehow thought it was rational to kill someone. Jesus fucking Christ, Feliciano – You're a legitimate murderer." Those moments seemed like they happened with every decision that he made. He was just like this. One bad decision after another to further ruin any chance at potential.
"Which is why I should stay," He reiterated. "I deserve it. Not you…" Lovino shook his head but Feliciano refused to take anything but an affirmative answer right now. "It's the only right thing I can do for you… Even if Antonio comes with you – I just want you out of here. You're so unhappy."
It took an uncomfortably long amount of time before Lovino looked at him directly again. Feliciano tried to stand tall, be confident but it was hard when his brother was looking at him as a disappointment. However, Feliciano knew that this was the only way – The only just thing that had ever happened in the years that had passed with them never really reaching a conclusion for each other to accept. Something that wouldn't lead to Feliciano being a drain anymore and Lovino being happy. "Are you sure?" Feliciano nodded.
"I'm sure." He stressed earnestly, never breaking eye-contact.
"Then I won't stop you from trusting someone like her. You just wait for her to break any promise she made you believe." He shook his head; his brother was just coping. Coping with the idea that maybe his little brother was just genuinely a terrible person. Someone who deserved this – Who wasn't being tricked into letting that out.
"I'd find a way if that ever happened." The determination in his voice seemed to send Lovino over. A nervous twitch in the corners of his lips making Feliciano realize just how much Lovino disagreed but refused to express. A rare moment of restraint for someone so loose-lipped about his opinions.
The door opened, Nurse Vogel tentatively poking her head through the sliver she had created, " ?" It was as if she couldn't say it fast enough, Lovino looking to her before looking back to him with a hurt expression. He could tell that he had no belief that Feliciano could do it, that Monika would do it – He was sure that Lovino had been given false hope before.
"Like I said, I won't stop you," He finally said to him before he went straight back to pretending he wasn't there. "Lock the door this time." Nurse Vogel held a sheepish face as she nodded insistently as she let Lovino slip past her. She shot Feliciano a curious look before she seemed to realize that now would not be the time to ask questions.
He waited, hearing the door lock behind her before he knew he couldn't take back what he had said, this was it, the only choice that wouldn't come from a coward.