DALEK WEEK: Obsession
AN: This prompt idea was really difficult for me, because this really should called for some fluff, but I am tremendously awful at writing intentional fluff, which means this prompt could only go in the direction that I am also pretty bad at. Angst. This prompt is an AU version of the ending of Goliath (done often, I know!) where Alek remembers his duty, long enough to help Austria.
"Knew what?" asked Deryn, and he leaned forward to kiss her. Her lips were soft but Alek could only think of how beautiful she was. A mask had been lifted. She did, finally, look like a girl to him, an amazing, wonderful girl.
"Oh. That." She said, looking stunned yet happy at the same time. Alek found his eyes focusing on her face, drinking in the shy and yet triumphant smile, embedding it's exquisite detail to his memory.
"Barking Spiders," said Bovril and Alek laughed just a little. But even that kiss and her smile and her hair swaying in the breeze of the deck, didn't ease his pain of what was coming next.
"I think I might, possibly love you, Deryn." He said, with a shy laugh and she kissed him back. Then her gaze flickered to the riggers on the spine, with the hydrogen sniffers, and he knew that she too saw the problems in their relationship.
And, his heart tearing in two, he lifted out the leather scroll. "It's a bit tricky, isn't it?"
It felt like he had just been kneed in the stomach, when her face turned to dismay and she turned her face and stepped away. The sadness in her eyes was heartbreakingly beautiful and Alek gripped her hands.
"Of course," she said, her voice quiet and choked, "No one's going to write me a letter to turn me royal, are they? And I'd hardly make a proper princess, even if the pope himself sewed me a dress. This is all ridiculous."
"No," said Alek. "I couldn't do that to you. Stuff you into a role you'd never fit into. You'd be miserable. You were born to fly. And I was born to rule. At least, that's what Volger says. Thing is, I don't think Austria really needs a monarch for too long. It's on the verge of collapse now. The royal families won't last for too long, now."
Deryn's face looked slightly calmer. "That's what Dr. Barlow said. You'd be important whether you were royal or not."
"They'll only need me for a little while. Once Emperor Franz Joseph dies, I'll be in charge. The Vatican are sure to validate it, once the old man's dead. It would cause civil uprising, otherwise. And I'd pull them out of the war, if it still exists when he croaks. Then I'd rebuild the country. Use the Hapsburg money to prop up the economy of our country, then give the people an elected leader that would rule. The Republic of Austria."
Deryn seemed to be looking hopeful, but it was hidden under a thin veneer of an emotion that Alek couldn't identify. Her expression was dazzling and for a moment, Alek couldn't take his eyes off her.
"It worked for America, didn't it?" he asked and she nodded.
"And then?" she asked, as if unable to believe it.
"Isn't it obvious?" he asked, placing his arms on her shoulders. "Then I'll find you. Wherever you are, I'll come to you and we can plan our life from there."
She bent down to kiss him and Alek felt his arms intertwine with hers. For a moment, one breathless moment, there was no his and her, just a deeply in love individual. Then the magical moment ended and they stepped apart.
They stared at each other, memorizing each other's faces, so vividly. He brushed his fingers over her cheek and she held his hand there.
"I'll miss you," she whispered.
"And I." said Alek.
"And I," repeated Bovril mournfully. Both of them jerked in surprise.
"Where does Bovril go?" asked Deryn, looking worried. Alek looked at the loris. He valued its advice, perhaps more than he would value some flatterer's advice. It was perspicacious and he would most likely need it over his career. But from the heartbroken expression etched on her face, Alek, placed Bovril on her shoulder.
"Keep him. Train him. Teach him." Said Alek and she nodded. Then Alek pulled out his tiny pocket knife. Deryn looked at it with a hint of suspicion. "You want to make a blood oath?" she asked, dully.
"No!" he said, emphatically. Then hesitantly, "You do that?"
Deryn shook her head. 'Some do, though." She added. "What do you need the knife for then?"
"A keepsake," said Alek, and cut a lock of her hair from her head as gently as he could.
She placed a hand to it. "Sentimental of you," she said dryly, "Will you put it inside a pocket watch so a princess somewhere will get jealous?"
Alek laughed and kissed her again, just to feel her body pressed against his for the last time.
Alek did one last interview with Eddie Malone, explaining his intentions for the country of Austria, how he'd remove it from the war and rebuild it where commoners and nobles could be the same (a dream that looked increasingly more difficult by the day). Eddie's face had been priceless and the outrage that the article had received was immense.
Alek could only be reminded of Deryn by the article, because it was the kind of outrage she created just by being there. She was awfully awkward in diplomatic situations and it had always made him chuckle just a little. Volger had been furious by the article, complaining that now the Germans would take him as a proper target and 'what happened to lying low?'
Alek had shrugged it all off. His people needed hope. The rest of the world needed to see that he was serious about this. He knew he had just obliterated his last chance to quietly sneak away from the scene and marry Deryn in the sidelines. He was an important diplomat now. Of course, he'd also withdrawn his funding from the Tesla Foundation. Now he knew that Tesla was a fraud, what good would his money do there? Better that his country would have it.
Duty would out. His father would have been proud.
Emperor Franz Joseph died on New Years Day 1916. Alek was crowned the Emperor of Austro-Hungary on January 31st 1916, the day of his birthday. He should have been happy, but all her could feel was a bitter sense of loss. (That night he dreamt of golden hair and a teasing laugh, just out of reach.)
The first thing that Alek did once he was crowned Emperor was use everything to pull Austria out of the war. Germany attempted to cling tight to Austria-Hungary, and he had been faced with four assassination attempts, but Alek survived all of them, albeit with an injury or two. The soldiers of the Empire were called home on March 3rd.
The war ended just two weeks later, with the mental breakdown of Erich Ludendorff, followed by the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II, causing outcries in the streets for the war to end and for the people to be able to eat well again. Germany was plunged into chaos and the British (presumably prompted by Nora Barlow, proprietor of peace) offered them a temporary loan of money if the Germans surrendered the War.
Alek now focused his attempts on getting a scope for what the people wanted for the country. He pumped the Hapsburg wealth into the country, all 90 million Kronen, to rebuild homes, recompense families and create new job opportunities. His mornings were filled with paperwork and aristocracy, pleading he reconsider his plans, but his afternoons were filled with petitioners who needed money or help to restart their lives or touring the country, just talking to the locals.
It was here that Alek truly realized just how impoverished his people had been under his grandfather's rule. And when Alek asked all of them, what they really wanted, they'd said gold or money or love or happiness. Alek couldn't provide those things to his country, which often left him sad.
(When he was touring the country, he met a little girl with blonde hair, blue eyes and sharp, fine features. The moment she started talking, she emanated a manner he had seen in Deryn and it had taken all of Alek's self-constraint to not invite her with him to the palace. That night he'd dreamed of her and him in Japan, walking over the lover's bridge)
His realization of what his people wanted was fulfilled when he asked a group of teenagers what they wanted. They weren't much younger than him but all they asked for the same thing: 'freedom', 'choice', 'the ability to choose', 'that their voices were heard,'. And Alek knew that this was something he could give them and something he wanted to give them.
(That night he'd dreamt of their first kiss, in that storm, with the wind battering away at them.)
A meeting was called in the autumn of 1916, to decide what to do with Germany now that its economy was marginally more stable.
Woodrow Wilson, Lloyd George, The Kizlar Agha and Georges Clemenceau all attended, ready to take revenge. Alek also came, much to the surprise of many of the leaders, on Germany's side. He'd insisted that to be fair, if Germany was punished, his country too, be punished. His actions were questioned of course, by his own people and the rest of the world, whether he was secretly on Germany's side, had they really chased him to Switzerland, trying to kill him?
Alek had managed to prove himself quite neutral and someone who yearned for the world to be fair and had asked if Britain and France were willing to pass a good judgment, or were they just there for revenge? He'd silenced them then, they unable to give an answer.
There were many things about the treaty of Versailles that were unfair and Alek hammered away at the Anglo-French team of revenge to give Germany a fairer sentence, and to his surprise, he was backed by America and Japan in his determination to not alienate a whole nation.
He won and Austria-Hungary and Germany were punished fairly. Their armies were reduced, the reparations were minimal and only two of Germany's colonies were re-assigned to Britain and France.
Alek had proud of himself then. After all, his father had once said that revenge was like a plume of smoke. It seems tangible, but once you reach for it, you're grasping at nothing but air. There was no reason behind revenge but self-righteousness and ego. He wondered whether Deryn would have agreed with him.
(He still imagined her good advice some days and wondered whether he'd be achieving things faster if she had been at his side. Then he remembered her hatred of being trapped on the earth, and her loathing of wearing skirts, and Alek found himself unable to imagine her beside him for another week)
Alek matured. He learnt more, knew more and grew more. He shoulders broadened, he grew taller and his voice grew deeper. He also started having to shave, which was a nuisance, adding an extra hour to his preparation time to be the vision of the perfect Emperor.
(He wondered sometimes, in the night how Deryn and Bovril were growing and changing. He wondered whether the sharp angles in her face and body would curve and whether she too was growing taller. With his luck, she was still probably taller than he would ever be.)
As he grew older, he also knew that more attention was placed upon him as a ruler. His empire was decreasing. Already, Poland and Romania now had larger territories, as part of the reparations given to them by the Treaty of Versailles, but now, he had also given a part of the empire a constitutional agreement to rule themselves. They were calling themselves Czechoslovakia and Alek had happily handed over his power to make them a republic.
Maybe seeing their prosperity, his people would be more likely to embrace the idea. It hadn't gone well, his proposal of a republic of Austria, with politicians and leaders who were voted in by the people rather than chosen by their ambitions and the family they were born to. Especially not with the aristocrats. Some had shunned him and moved their wealth to other countries. Others called for his cousin Charles to be placed on the throne but Alek stood tall above it all. They needed to understand
So he called for those same children to come to a political session. And he asked them what they wanted. And they said the same things to the politicians. And they understood. Most of them didn't agree but they understood.
His own country understands, but others don't. With the end of the war arriving so quickly, many countries are singularly fine. Barely any suffered any overly large death tolls or money loss and the European royal families stay in power, if for a little longer. Alek sees now, what Dr. Barlow had seen. The royal families, if they continued their excessive lifestyles, would be deposed. It was clear to Alek now, in a way that it hadn't been before.
The royal families needed to change. Then started a long campaign to implant the idea of abdication to the people in other royal families. The first he talked to were the Russian Royal Family. As Volger had pointed out, Russia seemed the most unstable. Yet, Tsar Nicholas II didn't seem to understand what he was proposing. Stepping down seemed preposterous, now the danger was over. All he seemed to want to do was engage his second daughter, the Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna Romanova, to Alek.
Alek had had to kindly explain that he wasn't even thinking about marriage proposals, much to the annoyance of the elder two siblings and delight of the younger two.
There had been attempts to convince him to marry her over his stay, from both Russia and from his Austrian politicians. He knew what they were thinking; if he were married, that he wouldn't have time to think of these ridiculous proposals. Equality for all, what nonsense.
(He speculated whether he'd stop thinking these ideas if he married Deryn and shook it off. If anything, she would have encouraged him.)
Alek had calmly informed Tsar Nicolas, that unless he changed his extravagant ways, his family would fall to the wrath of the Russian people. Nicolas had laughed him out of the country.
(He wondered what Deryn would have thought of this extravagance. She had been quite disgusted by shows of strength and pomp and Alek was starting to adopt her opinion. That night he dreamt of her body against his, as one person as they had been for just a moment on the top of the Leviathan.)
The people became more and more accepting of the idea of freedom but the aristocracy held tighter and tighter to the hierarchy. Alek had gotten another assassination attempt, which had failed, due to the brilliance of Volger's Hapsburg guards. But Alek was tired of it. Why wouldn't they just accept this republic? Alek didn't want to be monarch. And this was the best path for the country.
He wondered when he'd be able to persuade them when the final piece fell into place. Hungary wanted out of the Empire. They wanted to just be Hungary. The politicians were in uproar when Alek had quietly agreed, telling him that the backbone of their empire would disappear, just like his had. Alek had lost his temper, shouting about how the country was flawed and how the would all eventually fall to the tides of change. He had blethered about the collapse of the role of a monarch and how the new age of a republic, still had room for the aristocracy.
He told them he was in love and that he wanted out of the monarchy. He told them he just wanted to be normal and that unless a fair, just republic was set up, he couldn't leave. The hall had been silenced. Alek had dismissed them all, and once they had left, he burst into tears.
He wanted her hugs. He wanted her smiles. He wanted her casual demeanor. He wanted to just see her again and for her to tell him that it was all okay. He wanted a mad-cap adventure where there would be no consequences and most of all, he wanted her love.
Volger had been furious but Alek was tired and disillusioned by it all. The war was long over, but peace seemed a foreign prospect amidst all this anger and quarrelling.
(He'd gone to visit that little girl again. She was nearly 12 now and wanted to pilot a walker. She wasn't allowed to because she was a girl. Alek had told her to follow her dreams, with a lump in his throat. He knew this story. He knew how it would work out. May it be happier for her than it had been for he or Deryn.)
It was 1919 before the aristocrats gave in. The empire was dissolved, just Austria left. The country was finally ready to govern herself. Alek called for voting amongst the people and five candidates were left. Of these candidates, another vote was drawn and a man called Karl Seitz was placed in charge of the country.
Alek wished him well and told him to rule the country wisely, and with that, he dissolved the Austrian Monarchy, much to the anger of the rest of the Hapsburgs. The Hapsburg wealth became the country's wealth and Alek was left with just a single gold bar.
He was free.
It had taken all the persuasion that Alek possessed, to manage to get himself one of the last seats on the ship across from France to Britain. It seemed that the British didn't care how much money you had, you weren't allowed to overtake people in the priority queue. It was fair but Alek was fed up of fairness. What had fairness brought him but an empty cavity where his heart should have been?
He reached London on the 22nd of December. It was wonderful, filled with fabrications. It was fresh and filled with life. There was no over-encompassing smog as there had been in Austria. It had taken him a while to stop staring and find the post office.
There, he'd inquired to the location of a Dylan Sharp. He still hadn't heard news of Deryn's identity, so unless the government were covering it, up, she hadn't revealed herself yet. She had claimed her home in Scotland, but she had an office in the sleepy town of Maidenhead. It had taken a day to charter an oxenesque to take him there. He'd had no idea that the British needed so much paperwork to hire something as mundane as transport.
This meant that it was on the 24th of December that Alek finally found himself looking onto the location of her office. His hand was in his coat pocket, clutching the locket which contained a lock of her hair. He wondered how she'd changed. Whether she'd changed.
He walked in. A brown haired man with a thin face was at the front desk. It read Receptionist. Alek assumed he had to talk to him.
"Hello," he said, "I'm here to see a Mr. Dylan Sharp."
"Appointment time?" asked the man boredly, not even looking up.
"I don't have one." said Alek coolly.
The man glanced up, looking amused. "Then why in Darwin's name, are you here?"
Alek rolled his eyes. "Just tell he-him. Him, that Alek is waiting for him."
The boy sighed, looking dull. "Fine. Stay here. But don't expect anything, he's very busy!"
Alek sat himself down the waiting room and twisted the locket between his fingers. He wondered how she'd changed. He knew that he had changed in his years ruling Austria, but he'd still been imagining the girl who'd saved him from death. In fact, one of his only sources for her face was the picture taken by Malone of her saving the Dauntless.
His fingers tapped against the cool wood of his chair, he was impatient. The receptionist came back quickly, his face pale. "She'll see you." He said and Alek noticed the word 'she' with startling clarity. "Third floor, the immediate right."
He wondered whether she'd just revealed it to the man or whether he was merely surprised that Alek knew Deryn's secret. Alek took the stairs up, due to the fact that the Von Seimen's electric elevators didn't seem to be installed in Britain. He wondered whether Deryn climbed up these stairs every day.
He rapped lightly on the fabricated wooden door, that had the panel, 'Doctor Dylan Sharp', installed into the surface. "Come in!" came the voice that Alek had been remembering for years. It was a little deeper and a little hoarser, but it was recognizable as hers.
He walked through the door and there she was. His obsession for nearly 6 years. Her hair was still cropped short like a man's, but her uniform looked a lot more dressy than her middy's uniform. There were three medals hung up on the wall instead of one. Alek finally glanced at her face. There were lines around her mouth that hadn't been there before and a scar down the right side of her face, but she was still beautiful and the one thing that hadn't changed was the mirth in her glistening blue eyes.
" he said and she smiled, looking at him.
"Alek." She said. She stood up and Alek immediately noticed that their heights were finally equal. She moved to close the door, before Alek kissed her. Her lips were still soft but her touch ignited his skin. She pushed him towards the wall and just looked at him.
"Gods, Alek. You look so different!" she said, sounding breathless.
"You haven't changed a bit." He said, putting a hand through her hair. She put her hands over it and squeezed. It was too much for Alek and he felt tears trickling from his eyes.
"Alek?" she asked, sounding concerned, stepping away from him. "What's wrong?"
"You aren't an illusion?" he asked, "You won't disappear in the morning?"
"No Alek. I'm here for good. And you'd better be too." She said, before kissing him ferociously, her hands moving to unbutton his jacket.
Once their clothes were loosened, Alek felt like he could breathe again. He placed her head on her shoulder and she laughed.
"By the way Alek, Merry Christmas."
Sensational news has just been released that one Dylan Sharp, esteemed and highly awarded official in the Army and personal assistant of Dr. Nora Darwin Barlow is actually known to most as Deryn Sharp, daughter of the late Artemis Sharp of Scotland! This news comes under lieu of Deryn's resignment from her army career. When asked what she wanted to do next, the answer was "To live."