By San Antonio Rose
“The person who means the most to you,” the man clarifies. “Could be your girlfriend; doesn’t have to be. The person you’d die for, anyway.”
Gil Wulfenbach glances across the room at Agatha Heterodyne, laughing and talking in a friendly way with the brother of the man Gil is talking to. Of course, Gil has killed to protect his father, and he’s rescued a lot of damsels—okay, mostly Zola—in his time, but Agatha might be the only person he’d die for (if she’d let him).
“Just... keep in mind, it’s not about romance. I don’t know why people don’t believe me when I say that, but....”
“No, no, I hear you. It’s... when I thought she was dead... Wooster really was afraid I was going to kill myself, fighting rogue clanks and getting her parents put back together.” Gil sighs. “Maybe I was trying to. I don’t know. It’s just... it’s different. Even if, Newton forbid, she does marry Sturmvoraus in the end, I’ll always be her friend, her ally. And yes, I’d die for her.”
Wounded green eyes stare into his. “So you can imagine....”
It had taken the better part of two days to discover that Martellus von Blitzengaard had abducted Agatha and taken her to the Refuge of Storms, probably with the intent of somehow forcing her to marry him. Gil was frantic, and Bangladesh Dupree couldn’t get the airship to fly fast enough. But judging from the state of the fortress when they arrived, Agatha had been throwing everything conceivable at von Blitzengaard.
“I don’t care who you have to kill,” Gil growled as the airship landed. “Find Agatha!”
Bang and the troops roared their assent and swarmed through the fortress, taking out every adherent to the Storm King conspiracy they could find. Gil, on the other hand, followed the tell-tale signs of Heterodyne resistance—scorch marks, blast debris, holes from death ray shots, discarded weapons that had been fired until they melted. They led him ever deeper into the stronghold, and he ran ever faster as he feared the worst.
Finally, he rounded a corner into a long dead-end hall and saw a splash of strawberry blonde past von Blitzengaard’s menacing form. Agatha was backed into a corner with no way to escape. As Gil sprinted to get into range, however, she fired five gunshots into von Blitzengaard, who seemed not even to feel them. Gil charged his weapon, aimed—
—and the sixth shot rang out, and Agatha fell.
Gil fried von Blitzengaard to a crisp and shoved his remains aside to get to Agatha, to see how badly she was hurt. But it was too late. She’d pressed the gun against her temple to make sure there was no way von Blitzengaard could force himself on her. Gil screamed his heartbreak to the heavens... and then something in his physical heart did break.
By the time Bang found the scene, Gil himself was dead.
The locket was gone. Agatha had been so sure she was strong enough to beat Lucrezia once and for all, but Lucrezia had seized control the instant Violetta removed the locket and had escaped to Castle Wulfenbach before anyone could stop her. Gil followed as fast as he could, but by the time he caught up, Father had Agatha backed against a window, and the snarl on Agatha’s face showed that Lucrezia was still in control.
“Stay out of this, Gil,” Father growled the second Gil showed up.
“Five minutes, Father,” Gil replied. “That’s all I ask. Just give me five minutes with Agatha.”
Lucrezia chuckled. “Agatha’s long gone.”
“Gil, I’m ordering you to leave this to me,” said Father.
But before the conversation could continue, Zeetha and Violetta leapt at Father, drawing him away down the corridor.
Gil took his opportunity. “Agatha, can you hear me?”
Lucrezia’s borrowed eyes blazed. “I was going to let you live, little boy. But I think I’ll have a much better chance this way.” She knocked him down with a preternaturally strong blow, then pounced on his chest and hit him again. “I’ll make Klaus beg for your life.” Another blow landed on his face. “And Agatha?” She chuckled cruelly and punched him again. “I want her to feel everything as I break every bone in your body.”
He was too heartsick to even try to fight back. “Agatha... I love you... ’m not leavin’....”
Her hands closed around his throat and squeezed. But just as his vision started to flicker, Agatha regained control with a wail of “NOOOO!” and pulled her hands away. “Gil! Oh, Gil, I’m so sorry, I’ve got her now, I’m sorry, I’m sorry....”
Just then, however, Father fought free of Zeetha and Violetta, charged back toward Gil and Agatha with Zeetha in hot pursuit, and tackled Agatha away from Gil—and through the window, plunging with her toward the ground hundreds of meters below.
Only Zeetha’s tearful embrace stopped Gil from throwing himself out after them.
Agatha’s hold on her sanity was weakening. The locket kept Lucrezia from ever completely taking control, but Lucrezia could still manage to get a foothold in Agatha’s consciousness now and again, especially when Agatha was tired or otherwise indisposed. Gil and Agatha had both been working feverishly to try to outflank the Geisterdamen and stop whatever plan the copy of Lucrezia in Zola had put in motion, and as a result of the exhaustion, Agatha had begun having both auditory and visual hallucinations of her mother. Gil had devised some coping techniques for her, but they weren’t working anymore. Worse, Lucrezia was doing everything in her power to stop Agatha from sleeping, and while that wasn’t as much of a problem for a spark as it would be for the average person, the tactic had now taken enough of a toll that Gil and the Jägers had put Agatha under Dr. Sun’s care at the Great Hospital of Mechanicsburg. Yet sedatives were useless, and even Philbert Oleo, the storyteller who could bore almost anyone to sleep, had gone through his entire repertoire of stories appropriate for a lady’s ears twice without getting Agatha to drop off for more than a minute at a time. Unless someone could find a solution, she had just days left to live.
Dr. Sun was at the end of his wits. Agatha was at the end of her rope.
“It’s no use, Gil,” she sighed as he sat on the edge of her bed, gently brushing her brittle hair and trying not to let her see how much was falling out. “At least if I die, I’ll take her with me. That’s one less copy you’ll have to deal with.”
“Agatha, you can’t give up,” he insisted. “You can’t let her win. Heaven and earth, you’re the Heterodyne! Get angry!”
“I’m too tired. I’m sorry, darling.”
“Look, just... promise me you’ll hang on as long as you can. I’ve got one last lead on a cure. Let me try to find it.”
“What if you can’t? You’re going to have to let me go.”
“Let me try. Please.”
She sighed again. “All right.”
He kissed her forehead tenderly and left, running his fingers through his own hair and pretending not to notice that it came away from his scalp in clumps. He didn’t remember the last time he’d slept, either.
Dr. Sun was standing in the hall. “Gil, we’ve done everything we can. Your running yourself into the ground isn’t going to help her. Nothing will.”
“There’s one thing,” Gil replied. “Tarvek.”
Dr. Sun blinked. “But Prince Sturmvoraus disappeared months ago, in the first Geister attack. He’s dead.”
“We never found his body. And Jorgi said one of the Jägers saw him yesterday. Sifu, you’re the best, but if anyone can get Lucrezia out of Agatha’s head, it’s Tarvek. I have to find him.”
And if I can’t, Gil added mentally, Agatha won’t be alone in her grave.
War was hell, so maybe being a POW was Purgatory. Gil didn’t really know or care if the analogy held. All he knew for sure was that he and Wooster had been captured by the Geisters, taken back to wherever their homeland was, and imprisoned separately. It had taken a full year, all of Gil’s skill and cunning, and the help of a Geister who was no longer a Lucrezia loyalist to escape, find Wooster, and make it to the portal back to Europa. Yet at the last moment, the Geisters attacked, and Wooster sacrificed himself to ensure that Gil could make it through the gateway.
He landed somewhere in the Wastelands and hitched a ride on a farm wagon as far as Beetleburg. From there, using his Holzfäller pseudonym, he got a ride with a circus to the Mechanicsburg valley. He had to bathe in the Dyne and shave with his knife, but he did manage to make himself look somewhat presentable before he started toward town.
And stumbled straight into Agatha, who was walking slowly toward town herself from the direction of Sturmhalten.
“I can’t believe it,” she laughed through her tears after they stopped kissing long enough to talk. “You’re alive!”
“Barely,” he returned, also laughing. “I know I look pretty rough, sorry. A year with the Geisters will do that to you.”
“You... you were... in their world? For a whole year?”
“Well, I sure wasn’t in this world. But you knew that, right? You must have searched everywhere. I’m sorry I couldn’t get word to you.”
Her face fell. “Gil... I thought you were dead. I didn’t look for you.”
His smile faded. “But....”
“There were so many killed in the attack, and we couldn’t identify all the remains.”
“S-so... what have you been doing this whole time?”
She looked down at the ground. “I married Tarvek. He’s been trying to keep Europa in one piece.”
“He’s been... but what have you been....”
One hand went to her stomach, which looked... somewhat round. “I’ve... I was sick for months, and then... then he wouldn’t let me risk the baby.”
He put one hand under her chin and tilted it up to make her meet his eyes. “Where is he?”
“Dead.” A fresh tear rolled down her cheek. “Martellus killed him yesterday, and Violetta, too. And I killed Martellus. Tinka and Otilia insisted that I leave before anyone else came after me. I’m so sorry, Gil.”
Even as he hugged her, part of him wished he’d stayed with Wooster and let the Geisters kill him.
Gil double-checked his final calculation and swore bitterly. “Castle! Get me to Agatha NOW!”
“Get yourself to her,” Castle Heterodyne shot back. “I don’t take orders from you, Master Gil.”
“Dammit, if she finishes that bomb, she will DIE!” Tarvek had uncovered the means for making a bomb that would destroy all of Lucrezia’s work forever, and Agatha, over everyone’s objections, had insisted on building it herself. But the process was taking more and more of a physical toll on her, and now Gil knew why—the substance Tarvek had isolated to power the bomb was emitting some kind of radiation that had serious health effects. She’d already exposed herself to far more than was healthy, but there might still be a chance of saving her if she got away from the stuff now.
Had the castle been human, it might have blinked. “Die? Are you certain?”
The floor dropped open beneath him, and he slid down a chute that deposited him directly outside Agatha’s lab. He landed on his feet and used his momentum to barrel through the closed door.
Agatha jerked away from the device she had nearly completed. “Gil! What on earth—”
“The uranium. It’s poisoning you.”
“So? If I don’t finish, Lucrezia will find another way to come back. The war will never be over. I have to end it.”
“No, you don’t. Not like this. We’ll get Tarvek to find us another way. Or—or use the clanks to finish the bomb and deliver it. You don’t have to do it personally.”
“Yes, I do. She’s my mother. Get out of here, Gil. Save yourself. Find someone else. Enjoy your empire. Live a long, happy life without me.”
“YOU THINK I WANT TO?!”
That shocked her into silence. He almost never yelled at her.
He swallowed hard. “Yes, I’d have the empire. But I don’t... I can’t take ruling it alone. I can’t do this without you.”
Tears sprang in her eyes as she handed off the last components to her helper clanks and followed him out of the lab toward a decontamination shower. But she was fading; he had to help her into the shower and hold her up as the spray washed over them both, and by the time it was over, she was barely conscious.
He hadn’t been fast enough.
After a moment’s panic, he gathered her in his arms and ordered the castle to send von Zinzer, Snaug, Violetta, and Prof. Mezzasalma to the Red Playroom. Si Vales Valeo was the only answer. She could ream him out for it later. And if it killed them both... well, he didn’t want to live without her anyway.
“Sweet lightning,” Gil breathes, brought back to reality only by the gentle pressure of Mamma Gkika’s claws around the wrist below the hand holding the stein he’s in danger of dropping. “Any one of those would have killed me. You’ve been through them all? How... how did you survive?”
Dean Winchester looks him in the eye and says flatly, “I didn’t.”
A/N: It’s a little disconcerting how readily these five scenes from Supernatural canon translate into nightmarishly plausible scenes for Girl Genius, and I hope none of them become actual GG canon. Some of the details differ, of course, but Dean really has been through all of these with Sam and then some. (Their sources, in order: 2.22 “All Hell Breaks Loose, Part 2”; 5.23 “Swan Song”; 7.17 “The Born-Again Identity,” which could actually work equally well with Agatha as Dean and Gil as Sam; 8.01 “We Need to Talk About Kevin”; and 8.23 “Sacrifice.”)
As for Agatha’s choice in the first scene, it has historical precedent: in the American West, ladies generally armed themselves with at least a two-shot derringer. The first shot was for any would-be rapist/abductor; if that failed, the second was for herself.
“Vot vos her name?”
Dean Winchester looked up from the whiskey he wasn’t drinking into the unexpectedly sympathetic face of Mamma Gkika. “Sorry?”
“De lady hyu iz tinking ov. Vot vos her name?”
He sighed heavily. “Ellen. Ellen Harvelle.” He looked back at his drink. “It... wasn’t what you’re probably thinking, though.”
“Oh? Vot vos hit, denn?”
“Well, if... hell. I almost had a thing for her daughter.”
“Ho. Dot dun sound goot.”
“But Ellen... she was a lot like you, actually. Good friend. Ran a bar, called the Roadhouse. She was a hunter. So was Jo.” He sighed again. “Had a guy who worked for her, Ash... here, he’d have been a big-time spark.”
“He vos hyu friend?”
“Zo vot happened?”
“I got ’em killed.” He finally tossed back his drink.
She looked at him closely and turned a very sympathetic shade of purple. “Hyu iz a hunter—dot iz chust about as goot as being a Jäger, zo dot meks hyu und der Sam my boyz chust like de odders. Zo. Tok to Mamma.”
He swallowed hard and wasn’t sure he quite kept his lower lip from trembling.
She frowned a little in concern, but then her face cleared and she turned pink. “Dis Ellen, she vos like hyu mamma, hey?”
He nodded. “And Mom—” His voice cracked, and he swallowed hard again. “Mom was a hunter, too. She quit when she married Dad. But the life....” His voice cracked again, and he shook his head and looked down at the bar.
“It was my fault,” he whispered.
“Hy thot hyu vos chust a leetle boy. Vy hyu tink it vos hyu fault?”
He was just drunk enough not to ask how she knew that. Instead, the whole story came tumbling out—the disastrous trip to ’73 when he’d tried to kill Azazel and instead accidentally drawn his attention right to Mom; the nightmares that he hadn’t wanted to burden Mom with, that might have saved her life if she’d recognized them as dream-visions before they could come true; the demon attack that destroyed the Roadhouse and killed Ash just when he’d figured out what Azazel wanted in Wyoming; the unspeakable failure in Carthage, when Jo got mauled by one of the hellhounds accompanying Lucifer and Ellen sacrificed herself to take out the rest to give Dean a chance to shoot Lucifer with the Colt, only to have the damned archangel get right back up again because he was one of only five things the stupid gun wouldn’t kill.
At some point—he wasn’t watching closely—Gkika came around the bar. Now, as he finished, she pulled him into a surprisingly gentle hug. And because she was bigger than he, the hug made him feel all of four years old again.
“It’s all my fault,” he repeated brokenly.
“No. Iz not hyu fault at all. Iz var. Und not der fun kind.” Steel crept into her voice. “Iz like de var vit De Odder. Dot Lucrezia, she vos bad krezy. Alvays vant effryvon to obey her. Vos like a game to her, seeink vot she could mek my boyz do, vot she could mek Master Villiam do efen vitout der bogs. Send a goot boy vot luffs his mamma beck in time zo he try und safe her und iz a trap all de time? Ho, yah, Lucrezia vould hef done dot.”
“I’m still the idiot who walked into the trap.”
She cuffed him gently and stepped back enough to look him in the eye. “Hyu iz not an eediot. Hyu iz a spark. Und hyu iz true like a Jäger. Hyu iz like Master Villiam, too—hyu iz a hero. Hyu vants to help pipple.” She paused for emphasis. “De bad vons like De Odder, dey know how to tek adfantage of goot vons like hyu. Dun mek it hyu fault. Iz dere fault.”
One traitorous tear rolled down his cheek, but then he sniffled and managed a huffed laugh. “Could you change color again, just to remind me you’re not Ellen?”
She socked his shoulder, then gave him a sharp-toothed grin and turned electric blue.