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Author's Note: The following is a work of fiction and is intended to be taken purely as that. Please note that the ideas and prejudices expressed in this work of fiction are not my own, but those befitting of Kroenen for his 'political affiliation'. No disrespect is meant to any race or religion; to write Kroenen any other way would be taking him out of character. I do not think or feel this way toward any group, this is purely fiction.
The magic failed. The Fatherland was in great jeopardy from encroaching Allied forces, and there were barely enough Nazi solders left to scrape together a last-chance defense. Rasputin was dead --or as close to dead as he’d been in a few years-- morale was at an all time low, and the Final Solution seemed like a distant fantasy. Fifty-three good men died the previous night, including Karl Kroenen. At least, officially, on paper.
Doktor Kroenen set alone in his darkened bedroom, slouched down in a chair with his beloved phonograph playing softly near by. He gazed out the window with lidless eyes at the fiery sunset over the distant city, rather disinterested at the spectacular display of reds and oranges, or the war that raged on just beyond those city walls. Absent mindedly, the Doktor touched the fresh wound to his stomach -- a particularly nasty result of airborne shrapnel from the exploding gateway generator. It would leave a lingering stigmata of failure. It could prove to be very useful that he and Ilsa were reported as dead: the Reich was crumbling all around them as enemy forces pushed closer and closer every day. The war was all but over and numerous members of the high command had already fled the country. His dear old friend Josef Mengele spoke well of South America and their policies on turning over known war criminals. War criminals. Kroenen cringed visibly at the thought, holding his breath for a moment as if expecting something to happen. Ja, war criminals. Crimes against humanity, that was what those damn Americans called racial purity. And, he knew, it would forever be known as that, with the Reich all but destroyed. Failure gave Herr Doktor the perspective to evaluate his motivations. It was easy to see why Ilsa blindly followed the word of Rasputin: the power, the prestige, or some frivolous notion of love. Laughable, considering the mad monk bedded half the women in Europe before his unfortunate accident the previous eve. Perhaps die Frau actually cared something for the filthy Russian, and so turned a blind eye to the obvious. It was easy for a person to ignore the obvious faults in something which they cared about. Somewhere in the city, a swastika-emblazoned flag sagged against the horizon of a dying empire. Pushing himself up from the chair where he sat musing, the clockwork Nazi winced at the pain in his arm -- lacerations through skin and muscle, all the way to the bone. He was so close to retrieving that grenade, and he wondered if things would have been different if he would have. Had the Reich’s future depended upon him, at that split second, and was it possible that his retrieval of the grenade would have altered the course of history? Yes. But there was always a second chance at perfection. In the course of pacing his bedroom, his lidless eyes caught sight of the reflection of light off the gleaming metal blades – his weapons of choice, resting on the bed he never used. The entire afternoon was spent polishing and sharpening and perfecting the lethal batons after last night’s usage. There was nothing else to do; he had no patience for the music he usually enjoyed, it was merely background noise to keep him from going out of his mind. Herr Doktor had no desire to experiment on whatever victim may be nearest. Everything grated on his nerves, it was the stress, confusion, and feelings of failure. He was too proud to hesitate in anything, and considered himself above failures. Failure was the reason for perfection – mechanical ticking parts perfected the flesh. Flesh was weak, and died away, but the perfection of clockwork was eternal. Engraved in the flawless metallic blades, script cursive writing, perfection and beauty all rolled up into one nice little package. Alles für Deutschland. Everything for Germany. Of course, everything for the Fatherland, because the Fatherland allowed him to maim, mutilate, and torture to his content. After having seen what was on the other side of morality, the doctor knew he could never go back to a semi-normal life. He needed the new world of evil promised by Rasputin, a world where Kroenen would be allowed to create his kind of perfection as a reward for his unwavering loyalty. With a heavy feeling of dread, he opened the door to the small bedroom where he rarely spent time, and stepped into the hallway. Ever silent and cautious, even though the occasion didn’t call for it, he sidestepped around a squeaky floor board, highly-polished jackboots clicking softly on the glossy wooden floor. Ilsa was valuable to him: Kroenen knew secrets had a habit of being whispered in between sheets, amid the tangle of limbs in the throes of passion. Emotion was a very human disease that allowed secrets to be whispered in private. Secrets that were far too valuable to be lost, hence Kroenen’s insistence that Ilsa stay with him, at his home, away from the danger and chaos running rampant in the cities. Home was better than huddling in the bunkers under Berlin with the rest of the high-ranking officials of what would soon cease to be Nazi Germany. Crowds were bothersome; Kroenen preferred his solitude. It gave him time to think, read, and experiment.
Alone in the guest bedroom, she wept, kneeling on the floor with Grigori’s robes clutched tightly in her hands, knuckles white, tear-dampened face buried in the soft fabric. His scent – incense, ancient dusty tombs and a faint scent of leather still lingered in the dark cloth, the robe taken from him only minutes before he died.
She did not cry immediately, no. Not in front of the others – the young men who were obligated to rise and salute whenever she entered a room. Her emotion, even in a time of loss, would be just what they needed to condemn her. Prove their point about women being the weaker sex, and did not belong among the divisions of the SS. She would not cry over Grigori in front of her inferiors when she was given the option of grieving in private. Hearing the bedroom door open, Ilsa didn’t look up immediately. She knew, by the presence of death preceding him, Kroenen was standing just inside the door. The blonde did not raise her head -- there was nothing to say. She and Karl had their differences in the past, and she was almost expecting to be chided by the clockwork Doktor for her display of humanity. "Ilsa?” He asked, nudging the wooden door closed again, eyeing her in the dim, yellowed light the floor lamp cast. She looked up at him slowly, wiping away the mascara stained tears that snaked their way down her cheeks. Weakly, she made a small sound, akin to a whimper, knowing fully that Kroenen would not approve of a display of weakness. Indecisive, he stepped forward, head tilted in question. She was as he assumed he would find her – sobbing – and never being one for emotion, Kroenen didn’t exactly know what to do for her. Something was wrong that he couldn’t fix. Broken bones and bullet wounds were his department, broken hearts and grief were things he had never dealt with. Making another faint noise, Ilsa allowed Rasputin’s robe to slip from her hands and rest on the throw rug like the limp shed of a snake. Timidly, she reached for the clockwork Nazi with a shaking hand, needing anything real, any kind of comfort. The gaunt shadow of a man offered her a hand, apprehensively she took it, and he helped her stand, steadying her. She was weak, tired, weary. Her entire world shattered and was gone – it was most devastating to remember the way Grigori screamed, howled, wailed. Something feral, inhuman. It must have been unimaginable pain, Ilsa watched helplessly as the flesh was torn from her lover’s body and his skeletal remains were sucked into the blue swirling vortex, still screaming. Kroenen looked down into her watery blue eyes, reddened from her tears, both perplexed and intrigued that Ilsa, well known for her lethal temper and vulgar cruelty toward prisoners, looked so helpless and broken at the moment. Her bottom lip trembled as she gazed at the expressionless gasmask, she whimpered again. It didn’t matter whether or not Kroenen approved of her tears, she needed any form of comfort now, the loss was too much for her to carry with dignity. She clutched at his tattered uniform jacket in desperation, pulling his lithe body closer whether he wanted to hold her or not. The clockwork Nazi growled in the back of his throat, but forced himself not to pull away from the whimpering Frau.
Kroenen desperately needed Ilsa to aid in future resurrections, and as it were, he found it very difficult to go out in public due to his masochistic facial mutilations. She was very, very useful to the Doktor. Hesitantly, the undead man placed an arm around Ilsa’s shoulders, his injured hand dangling limply, cringing all the while she sobbed into his uniform jacket. She was no use to him as a simpering, sobbing mess. The young woman whimpered weakly, her entire body lurching with the soft cry as she leaned against him for support, resting her head against his chest, fingers still tightly gripping his uniform. The rhythmic tick tick tick of the gears and mechanisms in his flesh; expensive cologne, barely masking the stench of death and decay, and perhaps traces of machine oil. Ilsa gave a fleeting thought to Karl’s perversions: she recoiled in disgust the first time she saw his face, she assisted him once or twice in ‘improving’ his body, and there were other things, things which she tried to push out of her memory. There was still a small part of Kroenen that was human. The realization crept up on her as she stood there leaning into him and all his familiar scents and mechanical sounds. Something deep in the back of his mind, buried but not forgotten, allowed him some human emotion, even after all the surgeries and dark magic ravaged his body. And the realization seemed a new kind of hope. "What are we going to do?” She gasp softly, raising her head to look into the voids of the darkened lenses, where his pale blue eyes where hidden, "I just… I’ve never hurt this bad in my life…I apologize for being like this, if it means I don’t deserve this…any of it…immortality, and…I don’t want this, to watch everything we built die…everything we fought so hard for, all gone now…dying slowly. I saw Grigori die screaming…” The blonde would have continued babbling incoherently in her lament if her tears wouldn’t have started falling again. The anguish on her lover’s face as his flesh was literally sucked off his bones was an expression she could never forget. Kroenen tilted his head slightly, considering what he should do next. Mechanically, he placed a gentle finger under her chin, forcing her to look up, to gaze upon the polished black death mask. He did not understand why she cried so; Ilsa had seen numerous prisoners die --Russians, just like her Grigori-- and even tortured them to death herself. Pondering this, the living corpse wiped her tear-stained cheeks with his gloved hand, genuinely curious at seeing this side of Ilsa. She opened her mouth as if to say something, startled by his sudden human gesture, but remained silent. "Thank you, thank you for at least trying…” Trying to offer some sort of comfort, even though it was a near impossibility for the clockwork Nazi.
Kroenen paused a moment before he spoke to her, seeming to wait for his mechanical life support to pump air into his withered lungs so that speech was possible. "Mourn him tonight, with the comfort of knowing his death can never be eternal.” He licked his exposed teeth behind the mask, a habit of his. After a moment of silence, she nodded. "He said…death is never forever.” She managed, her voice cracking. "He gave me the book, and said it would…would guide me back to him. I won’t be happy until the man responsible for this is dead…that American bastard professor and the army of filthy son-of-a-bitches that destroyed us…” The clockwork Nazi chuckled, a dry mechanical cackle. If he had lips, he would have smiled – this was the Ilsa he was accustomed to, viciousness as opposed to child-like tears. "I’ll personally attend to his assassination, if you’d like.” It was half in jest, the strange, morbid sort of joke that only Kroenen found amusing. Ilsa nodded, closing her eyes for a long moment, exhausted, dark smears of makeup ringing her eyelids. "I hope this isn’t too much to ask…but I’d feel a lot better if you were willing to stay in here, with me I mean, tonight. I had such terrible nightmares last night.” She looked up to him, a definite pleading in her blue eyes. Kroenen nodded, slowly stepping back and placing both hands on her shoulders, though it hurt significantly to move his injured arm in such a way.
The extreme closeness was a little beyond his limits. The gesture made her think of a time, probably six years ago, when official business for the Thule Society, a night in München, and one two many glasses of wine, found the two in bed together. As soon as Herr Doktor was finished, he immediately ran to take a shower, and stayed in there for a good hour or so in a fit of obsessive cleanliness. She smiled faintly; so much had happened since that night when he was still a mostly normal, mortal man with a few strange quirks. What happened to that shy, handsome Aryan man she met when she was little more than a girl? "Do you want me to…” Kroenen stopped, reconsidering what he was about to say. "I have something downstairs that will help you sleep. Just a light sedative.” "No. Stay here with me. I’ll be fine, I don’t want to be drugged.” She took a deep breath, nodding slightly. "I didn’t sleep at all last night, nor any today, the nightmares, Karl, they were terrible.” "A common reaction to such a stressful night as last night…it will pass. You need rest now.” Ilsa nodded, numbly aware of how tired she felt. She allowed herself to be lead to the small bed against the far wall, peeling back the perfectly-made blanket and slowly lowering her aching body into the bed. The young woman watched expectantly as Kroenen pulled the small, high-backed chair closer to the headboard, sitting most gracefully in the thing. She hadn’t expected the clockwork Nazi to cuddle up with her in bed, but having him close by was a comfort, though she was reluctant to admit it to herself.
It was vaguely reminiscent of her father taking a seat to tell her bedtime stories as a child, though Doktor Kroenen remained dead silent, save for his ticking and heavy breath under his gasmask. He sounded rather hypnotic, in fact. Karl was satisfied when her eyes fluttered shut and she finally drifted off into a light sleep. He idly though of leaving to go and fix his arm, but it would require help. Perhaps in the morning, if Ilsa felt up to it. There was a twinge of a feeling -- obligation. He needed her, and she would need to be taken care of until she was ready to put her loss behind her. Tonight, Ilsa would rest, and he would contemplate their situation. In the morning, they would fix his lacerated hand, and discuss a one way trip to South America. Mengele said the ocean was breathtaking.
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